While it doesn’t have nearly as much hype as neighbouring countries of Kenya and Tanzania, with their world-famous parks and epic wildebeest migration, Uganda is a fantastic safari destination. The landlocked country has lots to offer travellers in terms of diverse landscapes – from volcanic mountains and crater lakes to lush forests and open savanna – wildlife and close-up animal experiences, not to mention incredibly friendly and welcoming people.
Here are our four reasons to go on safari in Uganda.
1. Gorilla tracking
Uganda is home to half of the world’s mountain gorillas, and gorilla tracking is the top reason people travel to the country. Gorilla tracking is undoubtedly one of Africa’s best wildlife encounters: coming face-to-face with these gentle creatures as they go about their daily life a few metres from you is indescribably thrilling. There’s nothing that quite compares to standing a few feet away from a 200-kilogram silverback gorilla while he picks his nose and nonchalantly eats leaves. The short hour you get to spend with the gorillas will stay with you forever. In Uganda there is one habituated gorilla group in the country’s smallest reserve in its far southwest corner, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. The better option for gorilla tracking is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which has the majority of Uganda’s gorillas. The park, in the southwest of Uganda, is a day’s drive from Kampala, and is breathtakingly beautiful, with hills covered in lush, misty forests.
2. The Big Four
Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most visited, offering four of the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephant and buffalo) along with many other species such as the Ugandan kob, a type of antelope, spread out among diverse landscapes of acacia-dotted savanna, forested gorges and crater lakes. The park is most famous for its tree-climbing lions, which can be spotted only in the Ishasha section.
3. Chimpanzee tracking
While gorillas are Uganda’s most famous creature, its chimpanzees also lure visitors from around the world. Chimp tracking is much more challenging than gorilla tracking because they move fast through the trees, but it’s a thrilling experience to trek your way through the forest to find them, getting swatted by vines and clambering over fallen trees. You also don’t get as close to them as you do to gorillas (who are happy to sit close to you and carry on with their daily business), as they tend to stay up in the tall trees. Kibale Forest National Park, which forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park, is Uganda’s most famous chimp tracking park, with over 1000 of the great apes. In the park you can either track a habituated chimp group for a few hours, or spend a whole day doing a chimp habituation experience, where you are allowed to visit a chimp group that is being habituated. Just outside of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Karinzu Forest Reserve, is a small reserve that has two habituated chimp groups you can track.
4. Murchison Falls
Murchison Falls National Park, a four hour drive north of Uganda’s capital of Kampala, doesn’t get as many visitors as Queen Elizabeth but it does offer fantastic wildlife viewing in an incredibly scenic setting. The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile river, and its centrepiece is Murchison Falls, a stunning waterfall that tumbles down through a six metre-wide gorge. In addition to game drives, where you can see four of the Big Five, don’t miss doing boat trips on the river to see the falls and travel downstream to go on a bird hunt for the rare and endangered shoebill stork: this is one of the few places in the world to see them.
Inspired to go on safari to Uganda? Check out our range of budget overlanding safari trips to Uganda here.
Some of our most popular Uganda overlanding tours are:
7-day Uganda gorilla safari tour
12-day best of Uganda overland adventure