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Things To Do on a Safari in Uganda

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Uganda, often referred to as the Pearl of Africa, is a captivating destination that offers a blend of stunning natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and rich cultural experiences. With 10 national parks, 12 wildlife reserves, and 13 wildlife sanctuaries, Uganda is one of the best safari destinations in Africa. 

Uganda is located in East Africa and is renowned for its abundant wildlife, which lives in one of the most unspoiled places in Africa. Uganda safaris bring tourists up close and personal with different wildlife species in different protected areas. The Uganda Wildlife Authority protects Uganda’s wildlife in different national parks, game reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries. 

Going on a safari in Uganda offers opportunities to view different wildlife species, lakes, rivers, mountains, and cultures. By visiting different tourist destinations, tourists can discover and encounter what Uganda has to offer. Every national park has unique attractions that tourists can spot while there.

Top Things To Do on a Safari in Uganda

Planning your safari in Uganda? Make sure to include at least one of the below activities to your itinerary.

Related: The Biggest Tourist Attractions in Uganda

Mountain Gorilla Trekking on a Uganda Safari

Mountain gorilla trekking is one of the most captivating activities that can be done on a safari in Uganda. The activity involves moving around the forest tracking for mountain gorillas and later observing them as they do day to day activities in their natural habitat.

In Uganda, safari-goers can find mountain gorillas in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Bwindi, alone, is home to over half of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas, while Mgahinga hosts a smaller population of about 100 gorillas, making it the park with the smallest population of these apes.

  • Mountain gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park involves visiting one of the 19 habituated mountain gorilla families accustomed to human presence. These families are distributed across four sectors of the park: Nkuringo, Buhoma, Rushaga, and Ruhija.
  • In Mgahinga National Park, gorilla trekking focuses on a single habituated family known as Nyakagezi. This group is the only one in Mgahinga and allows a maximum of 8 trekkers at a time. The limited gorilla population in Mgahinga is why only one group has been habituated for trekking.

To trek mountain gorillas in either Bwindi or Mgahinga National Parks, tourists must be at least 15 years old and possess a valid gorilla trekking permit. These permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a government agency responsible for managing these parks. Permit prices vary based on residency status, with costs set at $800 for foreign non-residents, $700 for foreign residents, $500 for other African nationals, and UGX 300,000 for East African Community citizens. The Uganda Wildlife Authority sells these permits through licensed tour operators.

Gorilla trekking is a daily activity in both parks. Trekkers with valid permits go to sector offices in Bwindi or the park headquarters in Mgahinga for a briefing. Rangers check permits and explain the rules. Groups, capped at eight trekkers, are assigned armed ranger guides and driven to the trek’s starting point for another briefing.

The search for gorillas can take 2 to 7 hours, during which trekkers can enjoy other forest attractions such as wildlife, vegetation, and waterfalls. Upon locating the gorillas, trekkers are required to maintain a distance of about 10 meters, adhere to guidelines, and spend up to one hour with them. This encounter offers a chance to observe the gorillas engaging in daily activities like mating, playing, and feeding. Photography is allowed, provided camera flashes are turned off. After the visit, trekkers return to their starting point to meet their drivers and proceed to their next destination.

Related read: How Fit Should You Be for Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Mountain Gorilla Habituation Experience on a Uganda Safari

Mountain gorilla habituation is a unique activity available exclusively in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It appeals to tourists eager to spend up to four hours with mountain gorillas, going beyond the standard trekking experience. While many gorilla families in the park are available for trekking, only two families, Bikingi in Rushaga and Posho in Nkuringo, offer the opportunity for closer observation during habituation sessions.

Gorilla habituation involves a careful, gradual process of acclimating wild mountain gorillas to human presence. This process can span 2 to 4 years, during which gorillas are gently trained to become comfortable with people nearby.

Participants in gorilla habituation, alongside a team of rangers, researchers, and veterinarians, play a vital role in this acclimatization process. To partake, tourists must obtain a habituation permit from the Uganda Wildlife Authority. The availability of permits is limited to four per family per day, allowing for a maximum of four people to engage in the activity, emphasizing the need to book 3 to 4 months in advance to secure a spot.

The cost of a habituation permit in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is $1500 for foreign non-residents, $1000 for foreign residents and other African nationals, and UGX 750,000 for East African Community citizens. These permits grant participants the exceptional experience of spending four hours with the mountain gorillas, which contributes to their crucial process of becoming comfortable with human proximity.

Related read: Why Responsible Tourism is Key to Saving the Mountain Gorillas

Mountain Gorilla-Tracking Safari in Uganda

Bird Watching on a Safari in Uganda

Uganda is renowned as a bird-watching haven, hosting over 1,063 bird species across various regions. Bird watching stands out as a premier activity for avian enthusiasts on a Ugandan safari, offering chances to encounter a wide array of bird species.

During a bird-watching safari in Uganda, enthusiasts have the opportunity to explore well-known locations like Mabamba Swamp, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, the Royal Mile, Semuliki National Park, Kibale Forest National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and Mgahinga National Park, among others. These areas provide rich habitats for diverse bird species, making each birding experience unique.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority manages and oversees bird watching in these protected areas, charging a nominal fee in addition to the usual entrance and activity fees. In parks such as Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo, and Kidepo Valley, the birding fee is set at $25 for foreign non-residents, $20 for foreign residents, and UGX 20,000 for East African Community citizens.

For those interested in bird watching in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mgahinga National Park, Kibale Forest National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and Semuliki National Park, the fees are $40 for foreign non-residents, $30 for foreign residents, and UGX 30,000 for citizens of East African Member States. This structured pricing ensures bird watchers have access to some of the most spectacular birding sites in the world, further cementing Uganda’s status as a top destination for bird enthusiasts.

Game Viewing on a Uganda Safari

Uganda is one of Africa’s prime safari destinations, boasting several national parks that serve as sanctuaries for diverse wildlife. Game drives, a highlight of the Ugandan safari experience, are offered in parks such as Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley, Lake Mburo, and Queen Elizabeth. These drives allow tourists to observe a wide range of wildlife in their natural habitats.

To facilitate these explorations, various game tracks are established within the parks, allowing easy navigation for safari vehicles and tourists in pursuit of wild animals. Game drives are scheduled at different times—morning, evening, and night—to accommodate different wildlife viewing preferences, including the chance to see nocturnal animals.

The duration of game drives on a Uganda safari typically ranges from 2 to 5 hours, depending on available time and specific wildlife interests. Night game drives, which seek out nocturnal creatures like lions, leopards, and bush babies, can extend up to 6 hours.

Tourists can opt for day game drives at no additional charge or choose night game drives for a fee. Night drives, however, are exclusive to guests staying in lodges within the parks. Fees for night drives are set at $30 for foreign non-residents, $20 for foreign residents, and UGX 30,000 for East African Community citizens.

  • Day game drives are complimentary for tourists with a driver-guide and an authorized safari vehicle, except when opting to hire a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) vehicle or ranger guide. Entrance fees to the parks are required for all game drives.
  • Morning game drives start at 6:30 am, post-breakfast, and last 3 to 5 hours, offering early risers a chance to spot nocturnal species. Afternoon drives begin around 4 pm, ideal for observing animals as they rest, feed, or gather at watering holes, concluding by 6 or 7 pm.
  • Night drives are specifically for viewing nocturnal animals and are available in parks like Murchison Falls, Lake Mburo, and Queen Elizabeth, which are known for their significant nocturnal populations.

Exploring these national parks through game drives allows tourists to encounter a variety of animals including lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, and giraffes, among others. Unique sightings include cheetahs and ostriches in Kidepo Valley, zebras in Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley, and impalas exclusively in Lake Mburo. Additionally, game drives offer glimpses of primates such as blue monkeys, baboons, and vervet monkeys, as well as an array of bird species, enriching the safari experience.

Related read: Tips for Planning a Safari in Uganda

Chimpanzee Trekking on a Safari in Uganda

Uganda is celebrated for harboring the world’s largest population of chimpanzees, offering visitors the extraordinary chance to engage in chimpanzee trekking and habituation experiences across its verdant national parks. Prime locations for these activities include Kibale Forest National Park, Budongo Forest within Murchison Falls National Park, and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Chimpanzee trekking, spanning 2 to 6 hours, mandates that participants be no younger than 15 years and have a valid trekking permit. Costs for the permits differ, with Kibale Forest National Park charging $250 for foreign non-residents, while Kyambura Gorge presents a more affordable option at $100 for the same demographic. The adventure consists of guided small groups trekking through the jungle in pursuit of chimpanzees, offering the chance to observe various wildlife along the way. Once the chimpanzees are located, participants get to spend an hour watching them in their natural setting.

For a more immersive experience, the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, available solely in Kibale Forest, allows visitors to spend up to 4 hours with the chimps. This activity, aiming to acclimate chimps to human presence, is more costly, with permits priced at $300 for foreign non-residents.

It’s essential to book this experience well in advance due to the limited availability of four participants per session. This exclusive opportunity involves visitors in the habituation process, working closely with a dedicated team of rangers, researchers, and veterinarians. Through activities such as feeding and observation, participants gain a deeper understanding of chimpanzee behavior, lifestyle, and conservation efforts, making for a profoundly enriching experience.

Get in touch with Africa Adventure Vacations to book your safari in Uganda. They will advise on the best accommodation and activities, planing your entire safari for you!

Boat Cruises on a Uganda Safari 

Uganda offers a plethora of tourist activities, with boat cruises being particularly enchanting options that no visitor should miss. Many of Uganda’s national parks feature water bodies, providing perfect settings for memorable boat cruises.

Visitors on a Ugandan safari can enjoy various boat cruises, including journeys to the Nile delta or the bottom of the Murchison Falls in Murchison Falls National Park, serene rides on Lake Mburo in Lake Mburo National Park, tranquil cruises on Lake Bunyonyi, and scenic tours along the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lake Edward and Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

  • Murchison Falls National Park hosts two main boat cruises: one to the bottom of the falls for those wishing to marvel at the stunning waterfalls, and another to the Nile delta, primarily aimed at birdwatchers keen on spotting various aquatic birds. These cruises offer close encounters with riverside wildlife, especially in the dry season when animals gather to drink and graze near the water, including crocodiles, antelopes, buffaloes, and elephants. Birdwatchers on the Nile delta cruise can expect to see species such as the shoebill stork, giant heron, and papyrus gonolek, among others.
  • Kazinga Channel Cruises provide a 2 to 3-hour journey through Queen Elizabeth National Park, offering views of water birds, land animals, and aquatic life. Travelers can expect sightings of crocodiles, hippos, elephants, and a variety of birds including the African fish eagle and the pied kingfisher.
  • Lake Mburo National Park offers boat cruises on Lake Mburo that allow tourists to unwind while observing aquatic birds and lakeshore wildlife, including hippos, crocodiles, and a range of bird species such as the African fish eagle and the malachite kingfisher.
  • Lake Bunyonyi Cruises offer a safe and serene experience on Uganda’s deepest lake, home to over 29 islands. The absence of dangerous animals in the lake allows for relaxed exploration of the islands and surrounding hills of Kabale. Noteworthy islands include Akampene (Punishment Island), known for its historical significance, and others like Bwama and Bushara, each with its unique story and beauty.

Each of these boat cruises offers a distinct experience, from wildlife viewing to historical exploration, making them must-do activities for anyone visiting Uganda.

Related read: How Much Does a Uganda Safari Cost?

Taking a boat in Murchison Falls National Park
Taking a boat in Murchison Falls National Park

Mountain Climbing on a Uganda Safari

Mountain climbing is a thrilling option for tourists on a Uganda safari, offering the chance to scale some of Africa’s most majestic peaks. Uganda is home to several notable mountains, with Mount Rwenzori standing out as the highest in the country. Other significant peaks include Mount Elgon, the country’s second tallest, and the trio of Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Sabyinyo, all located in Mgahinga National Park.

Climbing these mountains is a test of endurance and physical fitness, with each peak presenting its unique challenges and rewards. The hiking trails leading to their summits are demanding, emphasizing the need for climbers to be in good physical condition.

  • Mount Rwenzori, also known as the “Mountains of the Moon,” reaches a height of 5,109 meters and is renowned for its snow-capped peaks. Situated in Rwenzori Mountains National Park along the Uganda-DR Congo border, an expedition to its highest point, Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley, typically takes 8 to 10 days. Climbers can choose between the Kilembe and Central Circuit trails, each offering distinct experiences and scenic views ranging from glaciers and lakes to diverse flora and fauna.
  • Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano straddling the Uganda-Kenya border, rises to 4,321 meters. Its ascent, achievable within 4 to 6 days, allows hikers to explore its vast caldera and enjoy sights of wildlife, waterfalls, and the unique montane vegetation. The mountain’s less demanding trails make it an appealing option for those new to high-altitude hiking.
  • In Mgahinga National Park, the Virunga volcanoes of Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhabura, and Mount Sabyinyo offer shorter, yet equally rewarding treks. Each peak provides panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes and a chance to stand at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo simultaneously, particularly on Mount Sabyinyo.

Hiking fees vary, with Mount Elgon and Rwenzori charging $50 for foreign non-residents, while Mgahinga’s volcanic climbs are priced at $100 for the same group. These adventures not only challenge climbers physically but also reward them with unparalleled views of East Africa’s stunning natural beauty.

Mountain climbing in Uganda
Mountain climbing in Uganda

Golden Monkey Trekking on a Safari in Uganda

Golden monkey trekking in Mgahinga National Park, Uganda, presents a rare opportunity to watch these distinctive primates within their native setting. To participate, tourists need a trekking permit, which is available for $60 for foreign non-residents. This permit grants them the privilege of spending an hour observing the golden monkeys as they engage in natural behaviors such as foraging and socializing. The experience kicks off with a comprehensive briefing on the do’s and don’ts, followed by a trek through the jungle led by knowledgeable guides to find the monkeys.

For those seeking a deeper connection, the Golden Monkey Habituation Experience offers an extended four-hour period with the monkeys. This experience is designed to help the monkeys become accustomed to human presence and allows for more in-depth observation and interaction, all under the expert guidance of conservation professionals, including veterinarians and researchers. The habituation experience permit is priced at $100 for foreign non-residents. All permits are issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, ensuring that visitors have an authentic and regulated encounter with these rare primates.

Rhino Tracking in Uganda

Uganda hosts the southern white rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the only location in the country where tourists can observe these magnificent creatures during a safari. This sanctuary is situated in the Nakasongola district, conveniently located en route to Murchison Falls National Park.

Rhino tracking at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a unique on-foot adventure, allowing visitors to roam the sanctuary in search of rhinos. For safety, tourists are accompanied by armed ranger guides dedicated to locating the rhinos. This immersive experience often results in tourists witnessing the rhinos up close, either grazing or resting in their natural environment.

To participate in white rhino tracking or any other activity at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, visitors are required to pay an entrance fee. The tracking fee is set at $50 for foreign non-residents, $45 for foreign residents, and UGX 40,000 for citizens of East African Member States. Fees can be paid at the sanctuary’s entrance using mobile money, Visa, or Mastercard, facilitating easy access to this unique wildlife experience.

Rhinos in Uganda
Rhinos in Uganda

Cultural Encounters on a Uganda Safari

Uganda is celebrated for its friendly and welcoming populace, making it an irresistible destination for tourists. Those interested in cultural experiences have the chance to immerse themselves in the country’s rich diversity during a Ugandan safari. Although Uganda boasts thousands of cultures, certain ones stand out due to their unique traditions and ways of life.

Cultural tours across Uganda offer insights into the local cuisine, art, dance, drama, and traditional attire, allowing tourists to delve into the everyday lives of various communities. These tours are a gateway to understanding the food habits, dress codes, and social norms of the people.

In the north, tourists can meet the Karamojong near Kidepo Valley National Park, renowned for their pastoral lifestyle. The Bagisu, famous for their Imbalu (circumcision) ceremony, reside in the eastern Mbale district. The Batwa, known as the forest people, are located around Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, offering insights into their historical hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The Bakiga in Kabale, the Luo in Pakwach, and the Baganda in the central region, each contribute to Uganda’s cultural mosaic with their distinct traditions.

Cultural tours often include storytelling sessions, which provide a narrative on the history and contemporary life of the communities visited. These narratives enrich the tourist experience, bridging the gap between past and present. These communities’ welcoming nature ensures a warm reception for visitors, who are often treated to traditional dances and songs showcasing each group’s unique cultural expressions. This immersive cultural exploration is a testament to Uganda’s rich heritage and the vibrant diversity of its people.

Cultural experiences in Uganda
Cultural experiences in Uganda

Guided Nature Walks on a Uganda Safari

Uganda boasts numerous locations for nature walks, particularly within its national parks. While on a Uganda safari, nature walks bring tourists up close and personal with nature. In most national parks across Uganda, a variety of nature walk trails allow tourists to explore vast park areas on foot, providing intimate encounters with the diverse attractions each park offers.

  • Murchison Falls National Park: A must-do nature walk in Murchison Falls National Park is the hike to the top of the falls. There is a trail from the bottom of the falls where tourists can hike to reach the top, offering views of the cascading waters, local wildlife, birds, and diverse vegetation.
  • Queen Elizabeth National Park: This park features numerous nature walk trails leading to various park areas, including Lake Katwe, Kyambura Gorge, along the Kazinga Channel, and the Mweya Peninsula. The nature walks allow for wildlife sightings, as well as views of rivers, lakes, and a variety of birds.
  • Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park: Known for hosting the world’s largest population of mountain gorillas, Bwindi offers several nature walk trails such as the Kashasha River Trail, River Ivy Trail, Bamboo Trail, Rushura Hill Trail, Muzabajiro Loop Trail, and Munyanga Trail. These trails provide an up-close experience with the park’s natural wonders.
  • Mgahinga National Park: In Mgahinga, tourists can hike trails on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains. The nature walks offer chances to see primates, mammals, birds, water sources, local communities, and the park’s vegetation. Popular trails include the Sabinyo Gorge Trail, Border Trail, and Batwa Trail.
  • Semuliki National Park: Nature walks here can lead tourists to various attractions within the park, including two hot springs, a diversity of birdlife, vegetation, and primates. These walks offer a deep dive into the forest’s unique attractions.

Uganda’s national parks are a haven for nature enthusiasts, offering a spectrum of trails that provide direct access to the heart of natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage, making each walk a unique adventure.

Guided walks in Uganda
Guided walks in Uganda

Kampala City Tour on a Uganda Safari

Exploring Kampala, the vibrant capital city of Uganda, is an essential experience for any visitor on a Uganda safari. The city tour offers tourists the opportunity to discover a variety of cultural and urban attractions, including museums, restaurants, shopping malls, and religious sites.

Key destinations not to be missed include the Uganda National Museum, Kabaka’s Palace, the Bahai Temple, Gaddafi Mosque, Kasubi Tombs, Ndere Cultural Centre, and the Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine. Kampala’s rich history and contemporary African culture make it a fascinating place for tourists to explore.

Jinja City Tour on a Uganda Safari

Jinja is renowned for its location on the Nile River, marking the source of the world’s longest river. This city is a hub for adventure and nature lovers, offering a wide array of activities on and around the Nile.

Tourists can engage in thrilling white water rafting, serene boat cruises to the source of the Nile, bungee jumping, jet boating, and quad biking. Jinja’s blend of natural beauty and adrenaline-pumping activities attracts thousands of visitors, making it a highlight of any Uganda safari.

Sipi Falls Tour on a Uganda Safari

Located on the northwestern slopes of Mount Elgon, Sipi Falls is among Uganda’s most stunning natural attractions. A visit to Sipi Falls is a must-do when touring the eastern part of Uganda, presenting an opportunity to witness the falls cascading about 95 meters down the rock face of River Sipi.

The hike to the falls, covering approximately 7 kilometers, offers breathtaking views and a chance to immerse oneself in the area’s serene beauty. Tourists hiking to Sipi Falls are rewarded with the sight of the majestic waterfalls, providing a memorable experience on a Uganda safari.

Embracing the Richness of a Safari in Uganda

Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, invites travelers to an extraordinary journey through its lush landscapes, diverse wildlife, and vibrant cultures. From thrilling gorilla treks and serene boat cruises to exploring bustling cities and majestic falls, Uganda offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Its commitment to conservation and welcoming people make it a must-visit destination for those seeking adventure and connection with nature’s beauty and the human spirit.

  • Africa Adventure Vacations

    Africa Adventure Vacations is a one-stop center for the best and most memorable African safaris. We are a renowned safari operator based in Uganda, offering exceptional tours throughout the East African region, ranging from wildlife adventures, culture, birding, luxury gorilla safaris to Kilimanjaro trekking tours. All our tours can be customized to best suit your travel needs, budget and time.

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