Uganda, richly blessed with exceptionally beautiful and varied landscapes, is a tourist paradise.
Kibale National Park
Famous for its large population of chimpanzees, this national park is also home to over 335 bird species and at least 60 species of mammals.
Budongo Forest Reserve
Situated near Masindi on the road to Lake Albert, the Budongo Forest Reserve is the largest mahogany forest in East Africa and one of the most diverse, with around 465 plant species. The forest is home to Uganda’s largest chimpanzee population, along with 366 bird species and blue monkeys, pottos and black-and-white colobus.
Kabarega (Murchison) Falls National Park
Are you interested in catching a glimpse of the Lions, Nile crocodiles and Elephants? This is the place to visit. It is the largest protected area in Uganda and will give you a breath taking experience. Do not miss the Rhinoceros at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. This park, together with the nearby Karuma Wildlife Reserve and the Bugungu Wildlife Reserve, is part of he Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA.)
This is home to 76 species of mammals, numerous Nile crocodiles and 450 species of birds.
Kabarega Falls, also known as Murchison Falls, offer one of the most picturesque sights in the country. Set in an environment that has remained unspoiled by concrete structures, the Falls are only 7 metres (23 feet) wide and the waters drops down 43 metres (141 feet) before continuing its westward journey towards Lake Mwitanzige (LakeAlbert) and on to the Mediterranean Sea.
Semliki National Park
The park has over 462 bird species, which one can enjoy by taking a swift boat ride on lake Albert. One can also see lions, leopards, elephants, zebras and buffaloes.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This special forest, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, is a sanctuary for approximately half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. You’ll need a permit to trek to see them, which should be booked well in advance. The park is also home to colobus monkeys, various species of chimpanzee, hundreds of species of birds and many other animals, including forest birds, snakes, lizards, chameleons and butterflies.
Rwenzori (Queen Elizabeth) National Park
Straddling the Equator, the Queen Elizabeth National Park which is located deep in the Ishasha plains in western Uganda, is the most popular tourist destination in the country. Well known for its tree-climbing lions, the park has a diverse ecosystem of forests, savanna, lakes and wetlands covering 1,978 sq. km. It is home to more than 95 mammal and over 600 bird species.
The park has a large population of elephants, buffaloes, antelopes, warthogs, hippopotami, chimpanzees and monkeys. It also has many lions and, as of August 2015, about 20 leopard.
Spoonbill stork and an elderly buffalo at Kazinga Channel.
The beautiful Mweya Lodge, located about 10 km. inside the Park, offers excellent accommodation and internet communication. Hippos from the adjacent Kazinga Channel drop by to graze on the grass around the lodge.
Previously Uganda’s main administrative capital, Entebbe, located on the shores of Lake Nnalubaale (Lake Victoria) is most notable for the country’s only international airport, the official residence of the president of Uganda, Botanical gardens that offer the visitor a great first peak at a variety of bird species and black-and-white Colubus monkeys. In the same vicinity one can take a tour of the snake park and the national zoo where a variety of animals are safely kept.
The Old Entebbe Airport, the scene of the 1976 Israeli raid that rescued hostages that had been taken captive by terrorists, is still in use, though not accessible to the general public.
Uganda’s bustling capital city is situated on rolling hills around 10km (6 miles) from Lake Victoria. There’s plenty to see with some fine modern architecture, tree-lined avenues, cathedrals, mosques and palaces of the old Kingdom of Buganda, along with the Uganda Museum, Makerere University and the Kasubi Tombs.
Kampala’s crazy daily traffic jams, with the omnipresent blue-and-white matatus (minivan taxis) competing for space with bodabodas (motor cycle taxis) and other road users, offer the skilled photographer plenty of opportuinities to document the city’s pulse. Whereas the bodabodas will zig and zag through the chaos in order to get you to your destination faster than any other mode of transportation, there is a high risk of getting into an accident. Use with caution, insist on a straight ride and wear a properly fitting helmet.
The city has a variety of hotels to suit all pockets, including very high end ones that will satisfy the most discriminating traveller.
One of the most beautiful places in the world, Kabale, located 420 km (by road) southwest of Kampala, is a charming town that is nestled among beautifully terraced hills and lush valleys, with a morning canopy of white mist that lifts to allow therapeutic warmth from the tropical Sun. Kabale has the perfect climate, with an average daytime temperature of 18 °C (64 °F), dropping at night to around 10 °C (50 °F). Even on the hottest day, the relative humidity in the afternoons is a pleasant 42% and 75%.
With a population of about 50,000 people, this market town is also a transportation hub. Katuna/Gatuna, the land entry point to Rwanda, is a 20-minute drive to the southwest. The border entry to Congo is less than 2 hours to the west.
Kabale can serve as a base for day trips to attractions like Lake Bunyonyi, the Nyakagyera Cave, Ihimba Hot Springs, the ruins of Kanzikwera’s home at the top of Nyamango Hill (Omurukiri) and the volcanic Birunga mountain range that includes the majestic Mount Muhabura. It can also be the base for trips to track gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Kabale, and the nearby Lake Bunyonyi area, offer a good choice of hotels, with basic, comfortable accommodation. Do not expect to find any luxurious hotel in Kabale.
With breathtaking views of the volcanic peaks of the Birunga, Kisoro is a popular stop for travellers visiting Mgahinga National Park and going trekking in Rwanda’s Parc National des Volcans. Experienced mountaineers should head to the Birunga for easy and medium climbs. There are many walks outside of the town with lakes, craters and caves to explore and bustling markets every Monday and Thursday.
One of the country’s most attractive towns, Fort Portal is a hub for travellers wanting to explore some of Uganda’s best wildlife destinations, including Kibaale, Semliki, Bigodi, Rwenzori and Lake Nkuruba. Try and find time to check out the nearby crater lakes, Karambi Tombs and the recently restored Karuzika Palace.
Are you adventurous and a fan of water games? Then look no further than the Bujagali falls in Jinja where you can enjoy water rafting and kayakers over the strong rapids with high volumes of clear water and blue skies. Along the way one can look out for monkeys, hippos and crocodiles.
The country’s second largest town is a must visit for any person seeking to explore the beauty of nature in Uganda. From the beautiful scenery of the source of the Nile, to the waterfalls and bungee jumping cliff, the town has a lot to offer.
Head to Mount Elgon to explore sky-soaring mountains, lush forest-clad hills and vast wetlands. Straddling the Kenyan border, Elgon is a must for trekkers, with excellent walks including the Karamoja, the Central Circuit trail and the Sasa River Trail, and the Sipi and Sisyi waterfalls.
Mpanga Forest Reserve
Easily visited on a day or overnight trip out of Kampala, this reserve may not have the diversity of some larger parks, but protects rainforest and wildlife including red-tailed monkeys, flying squirrels, parrots and hornbills. Two shrines, Nakibinge and Kibuuka, lie within walking distance and are also worth a look.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
One of Uganda’s ten national Parks, Rwenzori is regarded as one of the continent’s most spectacular. The highest mountain range in Africa runs almost 120km (75 miles) along the Congolese border and is known for its incredible hiking and climbing opportunities. It’s also a hotspot for wildlife including the endemic Angola colobus monkey.
Where to stay in Uganda
There is a broad range of hotels from budget to high-end in Uganda. More expensive, international-standard hotels and resorts can be found in Entebbe, Kampala and Jinja, and there are also some upmarket lodges in some of the country’s national parks. Some hotels also offer bandas, which are separate rooms or cottages, within the hotel grounds. Cheaper hotels are found in main centres, as well as smaller towns and even villages. Since June 2013, hotels in Uganda are required to charge VAT, which will mean increases of up to 18% on hotel bills throughout the country.
Bed and breakfast
There are several good bed and breakfast options in Kampala, Entebbe, Jinja and other larger towns. These are usually friendly, clean and comfortable, with en-suite bathrooms. Many also offer laundry facilities and Internet.
Most national parks and major tourist spots now have organized camping sites, which are generally guarded, but campers should be well prepared and take the necessary equipment and precautions. Camping costs around $5 per person per night and $10 in the national parks.
Lodges: All of the major national parks offer accommodation in game lodges, including Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls National Parks. Standards vary from basic lodges to high-end luxury tented or permanent lodges with swimming pools and top-quality restaurants.
These are generally basic, but clean and comfortable, often with a reasonable restaurant attached. Many have ensuite bathrooms, running hot and cold water and mosquito nets. Rooms will have a fan, but won’t always have air-conditioning.
Generally catering to local customers, guesthouse standards vary from moderate to very basic accommodation in cell-like rooms around a central courtyard, with shared bathroom facilities. This is the option for shoestring travellers, with rooms from US$5-10 for a double. Newer properties are likely to be cleaner and better run.
There is an international youth hostel in Kampala in Namirembe, which can accommodate up to 100 people. There’s a common room with TV and the hostel offers tourist information and can book tours to national parks.
There are several backpacker hostels in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja, with many able to arrange adventure activities, travel and tours to major attractions and national parks within Uganda.
Monetary unit: Ugandan shilling (UGX): Money is in denominations of ugx50, 000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are also used in denominations of Ugx 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. International currency like US dollar, Canadian dollar, Euro and Pound sterling are recognized currencies in the country and can be accepted for cash payment in major cities although exchanging them in smaller cities maybe a challenge. It is also advisable to try not to accept very old cash notes as some places may not accept them. The visitor is advised to carry US$100 bills, issue no earlier than the year 2006.
American Express, Diners, MasterCard and Visa are accepted but not widely used. Some large hotels, restaurants, travel agencies and shops in urban areas accept credit cards.
ATMs are available in the larger cities.
Traveller’s cheques are not widely accepted outside Kampala. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling. It is advised that travellers bring sufficient US dollars in cash in case of emergencies. Higher denomination bills usually give a better exchange rate than smaller notes.
Generally Mon-Fri 0830-1400, Sat 0900-1200. Forex bureau are open until 1700 and able to do electronic transfers to and from overseas.
For more information, visit the Uganda Tourism Board Website here.