Uganda is one of the most exciting and enticing holiday destinations in the world. Whether you are wowed by landscape, wildlife, culture, or simply seek adventure – Uganda could be the perfect destination for you. But don’t just take our word for it. Winston Churchill was one of Uganda’s first tourists. When he explored the country back in 1907, he aptly coined the country the ‘Pearl of Africa’. He was impressed, as so many others have been, by the country’s breathtakingly beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife. Today, it’s just as magnificent. The fact that Uganda is relatively unexplored is one of the things that makes it so appealing! Here’s our list of top 20 things to do in Uganda.
Let’s explore the Pearl of Africa …
Number one on our list of things to do in Uganda is gorilla trekking. If you’re looking for adventure, you can’t get any better than this! Get up close and personal with mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Forest. Only a handful of people get to spend time with wild mountain gorillas in their natural habit, because there are roughly only 720 left on the planet. Gorilla trekking is therefore both a fascinating and truly unique experience, one that’s understandably at the top of many people’s bucket lists! Here are 20 more things to know about mountain gorilla trekking.
Endangered rhinos in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Due to poaching (the very last wild rhino in the country was killed in 1982) you won’t spot rhinos in Uganda’s national parks. Instead, there are currently 22 white rhinos living happily in the expansive Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. This sanctuary was started in 2005 by the rhino re-introduction project, and profits go towards the breeding programme and their eventual release into the wild! These endangered, magnificent creatures are free to move around on 7,000 hectares of land. Watch them at close range on a one- to two-hour trek whilst they roam in their natural habitat. This is a spectacular African experience not to be missed!
Believed to be the second deepest lake in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi is one of the country’s top natural treasures. It’s framed by lush, green-terraced hills, but it’s the 29 islands of various shapes and sizes scattered across the water that make it most magical. Its the perfect place to relax, explore the neighbourhood on a quad bike or go bird watching. The word bunyonyi in the local language actually means “birds” and yes, you guessed right – it’s so called because the lake is home to an extremely broad range of bird species! Get your camera ready and check out those stunning views.
Islands by boat
Hop on traditional Ugandan wooden boats and paddle to one of the Lake Bunyonyi’s many hidden islands, one of which has a small adventure park including a zip line! And don’t forget to bring your swimsuit. Lake Bunyonyi is known as one of the few lakes in Uganda free of bilharzia (a common parasite found in southern Africa), making its waters safe for swimming. Yippee! It’s also free of dangerous wildlife like hippos and crocodiles. Even bigger yippee.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
If you consider yourself a bit of a nature buff, you’ve probably heard about the Queen Elizabeth National Park. It’s the most popular tourist attraction in Uganda and the most visited National Park – and we can see why! Inside its home to 96 species of mammals, including lions, buffaloes, warthogs, hippos, crocodiles, elephants and many more. You can spot them all at a close range. As well as its outstanding wildlife attractions, Queen Elizabeth National Park has a fascinating cultural history!
Lions climbing trees
Yep – you read that right. Lions do limb trees! And there’s only two places in the entire world you can see them. One of the populations is found within, you guessed it, Queen Elizabeth National Park. The other population is found in Lake Manyara National Park in the southern part of Tanzania. And why do they do this you ask? Well, no one knows for sure. Some think that the lions climb trees in order to avoid tsetse fly bites. Others believe its a way of them escaping the heat on the ground. Whatever the real reason, they look rather comfy!
A narrow stretch of water connecting Lake Edward and Lake George, this channel is among the most important features in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and can’t be missed! It is known for being home to the world’s largest concentration of hippos, who happen to live side by side with Nile crocodiles. Wouldn’t want to fall in that water thats for sure! Taking a boat cruise down the channel is a great way to keep you distance yet still see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Katwe’s salt lakes
Surrounded by Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Katwe is a traditional salt mining lake formed through volcanic eruption about 10,000 yers ago. The Western part of Uganda is richly endowed with crater lakes many of which are both alkaline and saline. In Uganda, it is only lakes Katwe and Bunyampaka which are commercially exploited for common salt by the local communities.
Entebbe, a little town located on the shores of Lake Victoria, is a smaller and more laid-back alternative to the capital city of Kampala. If city chilling is your kind of vibe, there’s lot to keep you occupied in this town. Go kayaking, horseback riding, relax on the shores, play volleyball, do some birdwatching, shopping at the craft markets – the list goes on!
In Entebbe you will find the seductive shores of lake Victoria. This majestic and vast expanse of water shares borders with nations like Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Lake Victoria is the largest tropical lake in Africa and the chief reservoir of the White Nile. It’s is also the second largest fresh-water lake in the world.
Whilst visiting Lake Victoria, if you are looking for a place to do some much needed unwinding, check out the Ssese Islands. They are one of the less visited areas in Uganda, yet no less beautiful! This archipelago of 84 small islands are located in the middle of Lake Victoria and boast some seriously stunning white-sand beaches. Perfect for relaxing and soaking in one of their famous sunsets.
Northeast of Entebbe, Kampala is a dynamic and engaging city with a rich and colourful history. The capital city adds yet another flavour to your Uganda experience and you get to see one more side of real Africa. Our local leader Dan can take you to a local restaurant or bar in the evening which can be an adventure in itself! If you’ve enough time, also be sure to check out the Kasubi Tombs, the resting place of four kings of Buganda and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The picture speaks for itself really!? Just a short drive from Kampala, Sipi Falls is a series of three tall waterfalls cascading in a 99m drop along the lower slopes of Mt Elgon. There are different hikes you can take all starting from the small trading centre of Sipi. If you are feeling ambitious, it is possible to undertake a day hike from the main waterfall to the three smaller falls that lie upstream, one of which has a beautiful swimming pool at its base. Be sure to pack your bathing suit!
Uganda really is the perfect place to get your much needed dose of adventure, and en route to Sipi Falls from Kampala is a popular spot for adrenalin seekers. Here you will find the small colonial town of Jinja, that has come to be known as the adrenaline capital of East Africa. Famous as the historic source of the Nile River, you can expect to experience loads of different adventure activities; kayaking, white-water rafting, mountain biking, bungee jumping, horseback riding and quad biking. The town itself presents beautiful colonial era architecture, an old-world feel and buzzing African life.
Murchison Falls became one of Uganda’s first national parks in 1952. It is the largest national park in Uganda and one of the best destinations for those interested in the country’s wildlife. Today, you can expect to see elephants, crocodiles, endangered giraffes (more on these below), leopards, hartebeests, oribis, Uganda kobs, buffalos, hippos, antelopes and waterbucks – phew thats a long list! The park is also home to 460 species of birds, including the shoebill stork. And of course a visit to Murchison Falls would not be complete without a visit to the falls themselves up close in person. An unforgettable experience.
The largest population of endangered giraffes
Rothschild giraffes are one of the most endangered distinct populations of giraffe in the world. With a recent estimate of 1,250 giraffes, Murchison Falls National Park is home to the largest population. They inhabit the hot woodlands, savannahs, and shrub lands of both Kenya and Uganda, and are actually one of the tallest giraffes! They can be an astonishing 19 feet in height, and weigh about 2,500 pounds. Wowza.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park may be smaller than the others but boy does it pack in a whole load of wildlife! Its fantastic location, between Entebbe and Bwindi, makes it a good stop over to avoid really long drives or a flight. When there why not do things a little differently and take a bike ride through the park when the sun starts setting? It’s the only safari in Uganda were you are allowed to be outside the car! You’ll see zebras, antelopes, baboons, giraffes, long-horn cattle – all from a very close range. Note that whilst you can explore the national park at any time of day, morning game drives are better for getting photographs.
Kibale Forest chimpanzees
Its not only the Gorilla’s that attract Hominidae lovers to Uganda. Chimpanzee trekking through is a fascinating experience and one you won’t forget in a hurry! You’ll spend a number of hours tracking these impressive creatures through beautiful Kibale Forest. Once you find them, you’ll spend about an hour with our mesmerising relatives. You’ll observe them swing from one tree to another, feed, and play about on the ground and amongst the trees right in front of you.
Instagrammers at the ready – the Ugandan Equator is one of the most photographed and well-known landmarks in Uganda. You’re able to stand with one of your feet in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere – effectively meaning you’re standing on both sides of the world at the same time. Mind. Blown.
Okay so we’ve left the most challenging till last. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Uganda, the Rwenzori Mountains were selected as one of the world’s best hikes by National Geographic. They are Africa’s highest mountain range with the fourth highest peak in Africa snow capped throughout the year. The hike is not an easy one, and poses a challenge to even experienced hikers! If you take on the challenge you’ll be rewarded with varied and stunning landscapes, with less crowds than found at Kilimanjaro.
Feeling inspired!? Why not check out our trips to Uganda. Let’s explore together!