Follow Alice to the Pearl of Africa to explore unique landscapes and get up close to special and rare animals like mountain gorillas
Uganda is quite simply one of the best travel destinations in the world! Whether you’re wowed by landscape, wildlife or culture, or you simply seek adventure, Uganda is almost certainly 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 described it as 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. Despite this, it still receives relatively few tourists compared to its neighbours, Kenya and Tanzania. The fact that Uganda is relatively unexplored is yet another one of the things to make it so appealing.
Uganda boasts some pretty impressive natural wonders. It’s awash with magnificently high mountains, spectacular waterfalls, gorgeous forests, mighty rivers, and more. It also has a rich and varied wildlife population, including the Big Five, mountain gorillas and chimpanzees. We’ve written about some of the country’s best places in Top 20 things to do in Uganda.
One of Uganda’s main highlights is the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This is where you can find half of the world’s mountain gorilla population. The forest is considered impenetrable for its dense vegetation, and you’ll need a permit and a guide in order to trek through it. We’ve summed up the 20 things you need to know about mountain gorilla trekking. Encountering these endangered animals in their natural habitat is truly a very special experience.
Other Ugandan highlights include several thunderous waterfalls, Lake Bunyonyi with its 29 small islands, and national parks and wildlife reserves. These are home to everything from zebras, crocodiles, water buffalo, hippos and elephants. You’ll find yourself in lush tropical rainforests, grasslands, and at the edge of Africa’s largest lake — Lake Victoria.
Here are just a few of the exciting things one can do in Uganda:
We’ve put together a showstopper itinerary for Uganda. The main highlight, of course, is gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. But the itinerary, as with all Follow Alice itineraries, isn’t set in stone. If you want a little more of this and a little less of that – just let us know and we’ll tailor your Uganda adventure to suit you!
Uganda’s diverse landscapes are one of the main reasons why this country is such an exciting holiday destination. In the south west of the country you will find Lake Victoria. This is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest freshwater lake in the world. It is the main reservoir that feeds the mighty Nile River. Two other Great Lakes, Lake Edward and Lake Albert, also define the borders of the country.
Geographically speaking, Uganda is mostly one large plateau, ringed by a rim of rugged mountains. These include the snow-capped Rwenzori Range. From the mountain peaks to the lake shores, the landscapes are incredibly diverse. They boast tropical rainforests, savannah and lush areas of farmland growing crops such as coffee, tea and cotton. For those interested in nature and wildlife, three distinct areas of the country stand out. The first is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in the far south west of the country. The second is Kibale National Park, to the west, and thirdly Murchison National Park, to the north west.
Uganda is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It also ranks second amongst all African countries. This natural richness is a real asset to the country and helps drive the tourist industry. Opportunities to take safaris and trek to see some of the animals that live here are among the most compelling reasons to visit the country. But what exactly should you expect to see?
In the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you are able to see the stars of the show in Uganda – the mountain gorillas! Almost half of the world’s remaining population of these beautiful creatures are to be found here. Read our article on 20 things to know about mountain gorilla trekking. Chimpanzees are the major draw of Kibale National Park. Of course the forests are also home to many other creatures. The same can be said for the grasslands, mountains and lakes. Other animals you may get to see here in Uganda include elephants, hippos, zebra, water buffalo, and crocodiles. What exactly you get to see will depend on where exactly in Uganda you choose to go. The range of different habitats here all offer exciting wildlife encounters for nature-loving guests.
“Uganda is an incredibly beautiful country and the guides showed us some of its most stunning spots… visiting the Bwindi Gorillas was a very special and impressive experience, it’s tremendously fascinating to see these peaceful giants in their natural habitat.” Beni Loertscher
Foremost amongst all of the country’s attractions, gorilla trekking is something special. Mountain gorillas are an endangered species. Trekking to see these gentle giants and getting to see them up close truly is a privilege. This really is one of two places in the entire world where you can see them.
Hiking through the rainforest is, even without the gorillas, a humbling and exciting experience. This is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet and a worthy habitat for the majestic mountain gorillas. Sadly, only around 720 mountain gorillas are left in the wilderness today, which is what makes it all the more remarkable when you finally find the gorilla troop on your trek. If you’re lucky enough to visit Uganda, don’t miss out on this remarkable opportunity.
Most of the 41 million people in Uganda live in the southern and western regions of the country. The people are known to be honest, polite and genuinely pleased to help visitors. While the cities are modern and aspects of contemporary life feature heavily in the more populous areas, traditional ceremonies and rituals are still very much part of the local culture. Distinctive dances are still practised in different communities.
Food is also central to the culture here. Most people will produce their own food, except for a minority who live in urban centres. If you peek inside someone’s kitchen, you’ll probably find them preparing fish from the lake or making a stew from meat or chicken. They’ll serve it later with rice or matoke, a mash made from cooked plantain. Other popular dishes include millet bread, cassava, sweet potatoes, chicken, beef and freshwater fish, with other fresh fruits and vegetables. The national drink is waragi, a banana gin. Agriculture and fishing are important rural industries.
The official language of Uganda is English, but there actually 41 living languages spoken there. Swahili and Luganda are widely spoken, but English is used for all formal communications. In total there are 42 languages spoken in the country, 40 of which fall into the Bantu, Nilotic and and Central Sudanic language groups. Many Ugandans speak more than one language, and cross-language dialects are also commonplace.
The national currency is the Ugandan shilling. Like its neighbour Tanzania, Uganda used to be part of the British Empire. This is why its currency is the shilling. You can spot some gorillas on the 50,000 shilling note (which has a value of approximately €12). You can also see the Independence Monument on the note, as well as the outline of the country.
Uganda’s climate is almost always very nice. This is one of six African countries that lies on the Equator. The country’s dry seasons are from December to February and June to August. These two periods are the best time to travel to Uganda. The rainy seasons are March to May and October to November. Fortunately, the temperatures here don’t often climb above the high twenties celsius, and remain pretty much constant throughout the year. The hottest months are January and February, when the average daytime temperature range is between 24° and 33° C (75° to 91° F).
Like almost all other nations, Uganda has seen its share of conflict in the past. Now, however, it’s considered to be one of the safest and most stable countries in Africa. Kampala is one of the safest capitals on the continent. While Uganda has the same dangers that you might expect in many other countries, usually you’ll be perfectly safe as long as you remain vigilant and take sensible precautions. Almost all visits to the country are considered to be trouble-free. There is therefore no reason to avoid Uganda on safety grounds.
You should prepare for your visit to Uganda by reading up on all the exciting things to see and do there. You should learn a little about the country, its culture and its people in order to get the most you can from your visit. There are also a number of practical matters that you should attend to when preparing for your trip:
Our round trip of Uganda takes you through the best of the country without being stationary at one place. You’ll stay at some beautiful lodges, each with its own charm and many with a swimming pool. Be prepared to embrace a wealth of new experiences. There will be new landscapes every day and an incredible variety of wildlife that call this hidden gem at the Equator home.
“The Uganda gorilla trek adventure was absolutely incredible! I wasn’t sure what to expect and the the itinerary completely surpassed my expectations. From doing a cycle safari to beautiful boat rides – it was simply amazing. Of course the main feature, gorilla trekking, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget.” Rosalind Eleazar
Leading the tour will be Dan, our local hero and a bilingual English and Luganda-speaking guide. Born and raised in Buganda (Central Uganda), Dan has exceptional knowledge about the culture and people of Uganda. He has been a guide and driver for over four years and is great company too. Wherever you travel, you’ll be in safe hands with him.
“Dan made the safari and the trip around it unforgettable. It didn’t feel like travelling with a tour guide but more with a good friend who has invited you to his home country.” Pete Frank
Follow Alice on a Uganda itinerary that covers an exciting breadth of sights and experiences!
Watch what it’s like to Follow Alice to the Pearl of Africa in the video below.