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Uganda Travel Guide
Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose diverse landscape encompasses the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains and immense Lake Victoria. Its abundant wildlife includes chimpanzees as well as rare birds. Remote Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned mountain gorillas sanctuary. Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest is known for its 43m-tall waterfall and wildlife such as hippos. The Uganda Travel Guide will help you gather some need-t0-know information that will help you plan your nest Uganda safari or tour holiday with little or less difficulty.
Let’s start with some of the most commonly asked questions about Uganda travel;
Where is Uganda Located?
Uganda is a landlocked country, bordered by Sudan to the North, Democractic Republic of Congo to the west, Rwanda and Tanzania to the South, and Kenya to the East. The country lies astride the equator covering an area of 242,554 km².
Topographically much of Uganda can be classified as a plateau, with numerous small hills and valleys and extensive savannah plains. The entire country lies above 900m above sea level generally sloping from South to North. The country lies in a cradle of Mountains on its East Border with Kenya, Mount Elgon, and Mount Moroto in the North East, and the South-Western Rwenzori Ranges rising to altitudes over 2000m.
Uganda is a well watered country with close to 17% or 51,000 km² of its area dedicated to swamp or open water. Much of the country lies in the ‘Interlacustrine Region’ (Between the lakes) of Africa. This region receives abundant rainfall, and is rich in tillable land, a major determining factor in settlement of the area.
Vegetation in Uganda is extremely diverse a result of the different micro-climates of the country. Vegetation zones can be roughly classified according to the rainfall zones and are generally; Lake Region, Northern Region, and the Highlands of the South-East. These are defined according to the climate of the particular areas.
What’s the approximate size of Uganda?
With a land surface of 241,139 square kilometers (roughly twice the size of the state of Pennsylvania), Uganda occupies most of the Lake Victoria Basin, which was formed by the geological shifts that created the Rift Valley during the Pleistocene era. The Ssese Islands and other small islands in Lake Victoria also lie within Uganda’s borders.
How’s the Climate of Uganda?
Uganda’s equatorial climate provides plentiful sunshine, moderated by the relatively high altitude of most areas of the country. Mean annual temperatures range from about 16° C in the southwestern highlands to 25° C in the northwest; but in the northeast, temperatures exceed 30° C about 254 days per year. Daytime temperatures average about eight to ten degrees warmer than nighttime temperatures in the Lake Victoria region, and temperatures are generally about fourteen degrees lower in the southwest. Except in the northeastern corner of the country, rainfall is well distributed. The southern region has two rainy seasons, usually beginning in early April and again in October. Little rain falls in June and December. In the north, occasional rains occur between April and October, while the period from November to March is often very dry.
Travel Guide Tip: A Uganda safari like 13 Day Uganda wildlife Safari can be done anytime of the year or any other Uganda Safari or Holiday because Uganda is located at the equator making the climate of the whole country very friendly throughout the year.
Mean annual rainfall near Lake Victoria often exceeds 2,100 millimeters, and the mountainous regions of the southeast and southwest receive more than 1,500 millimeters of rainfall yearly. The lowest mean annual rainfall in the northeast measures about 500 millimeters.
Tell me about the population
The current population of Uganda is 43,739,522 as of Saturday, February 17, 2018, based on the latest United Nations estimates.
- Uganda population is equivalent to 0.58% of the total world population.
- Uganda ranks number 32 in the list of countries (and dependencies) by population.
- The population density in Uganda is 222 per Km2 (574 people per mi2).
- The total land area is 199,810 Km2 (77,147 sq. miles)
- 17.1 % of the population is urban (7,583,654 people in 2018)
- The median age in Uganda is 15.9 years.
Uganda is now the second youngest country in the world (next to Nigeria) with half of the population below 14 years of age as talked about in the article The world’s 10 youngest populations are all in Africa. 2030 it is predicted that there will be 60 million people in Uganda; the average mother has 6.7 children. The country is made up of predominantly Bantu groups, who comprise some two-thirds of the population, live mainly in the south, concentrated in a wide band around Lake Victoria, reflecting agricultural potential. Only 13 per cent of the population lives in towns of any size, forty per cent in Kampala. There is a major ethnic division between the Bantu groups and the Nilotic groups who live in the sparsely populated north.
What is Ethnic Composition & Languages of Uganda
As a result of migration and intermarriage, most Ugandans have ancestors from a variety of Uganda’s 34 ethnic groups, although people customarily identify with just a single group. In centuries past, ancestors of many of these groups came to Uganda from what is now Sudan and Ethiopia. Many of the languages presently used are not mutually intelligible. About two-thirds speak Bantu languages and live in the south, including the largest ethnic group, the Ganda, constituting 18.0 percent of the population, and the Nyankole (9.9 percent), Kiga (8.3 percent), and Soga (8.2 percent). About one-sixth of Uganda’s people are Western Nilotic speakers living in the north, such as the Langi (5.9 percent) and Acholi (4.4 percent).
Popular Uganda Safari Tour Packages
- 3 Day Kibale Chimps Tour
- 3 Day Bwindi Gorilla Trekking Tour
- 4 Day Uganda Gorilla Trekking Private Tour
- 4 Day Gorilla Trekking & Bunyonyi Safari
- 4 Day Uganda Chimps Special
- 6 Day Uganda Wildlife & Gorilla Safari
- 5 Day Uganda Gorilla Trekking & Wildlife Safari
- 5 Day Chimps & Wildlife Safari
- 5 Day Murchison Falls & Source of the Nile Adventure
- 6 Day Uganda Gorilla Trekking & Wildlife Tour
- 7 Day Gorilla Trekking & Wildlife Safari
- 6 Day Primates Tour & Wildlife Safari
- 8 Day Gorilla Trekking & Wildlife Safari
- 8 Day Highlights of Uganda Tour
- 8 Day Uganda Primates & Wildlife Safari
- 8 Day Gorilla Tracking & Wildlife Safari
- 9 Day Primates – Wildlife – Source of the Nile Adventure
- 9 Day Uganda Highlights
- 9 Day Best of Uganda Safari
- 10 Day Incredible Uganda Tour
- 10 Day Mt Rwenzori Expedition – Central Circuit
- 10 Day Mt Rwenzori Expedition (Margherita Peak Climb)
- 11 Day Uganda Special
- 11 Day Uganda Complete Tour
- 12 Day Heart of Uganda Tour
- 12 Day Uganda Primates & Wildlife Safari
- 13 Day Uganda Exclusive Safari
- 14 Day Uganda Total
- 16 Day Incredible Uganda Tour
- 17 Day Best of Uganda
BEST TIME TO GO
Gorilla Viewing: Gorilla trekking can take place at any time of year with April/May and November being wetter. However, be aware that rain occurs all year round. For general game viewing safaris, the best time to go is during the dry season (between June and September).
Uganda – Rwanda Combined Tour Packages
- 4 Day Rwanda-Uganda Gorillas Tour
- 5 Day Rwanda-Uganda Gorilla Special
- 5 Day Amazing Rwanda – Uganda Gorilla Tour
- 7 Day Rwanda – Uganda Gorilla & Wildlife Tour
- 7 Day Rwanda – Uganda Highlights Tour
- 9 Day Rwanda – Uganda Discovery Tour
- 10 Day Rwanda – Uganda Magical Tour
- 9 Day Rwanda – Uganda Gorillas & Wildlife Safari
- 10 Day Uganda – Rwanda Amazing Tour
- 10 Day Uganda – Rwanda Highlights Tour
- 12 Day Best of Rwanda – Uganda Tour
- 13 Day Incredible Rwanda – Uganda Tour
- 12 Day Rwanda Uganda Best Tour
- 12 Day Primates & Wildlife Tour in Rwanda – Uganda
- 13 Day Uganda – Rwanda Discovery Tour
- 19 Day Best of Uganda-Rwanda Safari
- 19 Days Uganda Rwanda Gorilla Trekking & Wildlife Safari
- 19 Day Uganda – Rwanda Great Adventure Tour
Uganda travel guide tip: English, Swahili and Luganda are spoken widely across the country and any traveler stands a chance of interacting well if they know the basics of those three languages.
Another one-sixth speaks an Eastern Nilotic language and live in the northeast, including the Iteso (6.0 percent) and Karimojong (2.1 percent). Finally, in the extreme northwest are speakers of Sudanic languages, including the Lugbara (3.5 percent) and the Madi (1.1 percent).English is the official language of Uganda, though Swahili is more widely spoken and used as a lingua franca (a language used in common by different peoples to facilitate commerce and trade). Luganda, the language of the Ganda, is the most frequently used indigenous tongue. There is some tension among ethnic groups, particularly between the Ganda and others.
European missionary activity in the 19th century led to widespread conversion to Christianity. Protestants, most belonging to the Church of Uganda (Anglican), have had greater political influence from the arrival of British authorities until the present, but have fewer adherents (25.9 percent) than the number accepting the Roman Catholic faith (30.3 percent). Muslims (16.6 percent) have less social status or political influence in Uganda than either Protestants or Catholics. 18% adheres to traditional tribal belief systems. Pentecostals in Uganda are the fastest growing group with 11 million adherents in various Born Again Churches. They vary in type from Assemblies of God to Four-Square Churches and various Ugandan Independent Churches. In the Roman Catholic Faith there is also a large Charismatic Movement presently.
Uganda travel guide advice: Ugandans do not judge or discriminate travelers based on their religions. Ugandans welcome everyone in their religions and a traveler could be treated with much interest if they are from a different religion and keep the respect with whom they meet.
Major Cities of Uganda
Kampala: a city in southern Uganda, built on 7 hills, capital of the country, near Lake Victoria. Kampala is the site of government ministries, of the National Theatre, and of the Uganda Museum. On Old Kampala Hill a tablet marks the site of a fort established by the British in 1890, and on Kasubi Hill are tombs of the kings of Buganda (kabakas). Also in the city are Makerere University (1922), Uganda Technical College (1954), and Rubaga Cathedral. Mengo, to the southwest, was the traditional capital of the kingdom of Buganda, formally dissolved in 1967. Kampala succeeded nearby Entebbe as capital when the country became independent in 1962. Population is estimated at 2 1/2 million.
Entebbe: a city in southern Uganda, on the northwestern shore of Lake Victoria. It is connected by road to the nearby national capital of Kampala, located 34 km (21 miles) away. The city has a noted botanical garden and an airport, one of the largest in eastern Africa. From 1893 to 1962 Entebbe was the British colonial administrative center of Uganda. In 1976 the airport at Entebbe was the scene of an Israeli commando raid that freed more than 100 hostages from an airliner hijacked here by pro-Palestinian guerrillas. Population is estimated at about 60,000.
Kampala City (Photo Credit: KCCA)
Entebbe is the international gateway with the only international airport in the country. Its got a number of attractions and hotels more than any other Ugandan city. Tourists are known to visit Entebbe Botanical Gardens to check out a number of plant species and relax in the cool natural environment before or after a wildlife safari. The Entebbe golf club attracts the business class travelers for a round and chatting with the goo old boys. Entebbe’s got Uganda Wildlife Education Center, commonly known as UWEC Zoo if you want to get a glimpse of Uganda’s wild. The fishing landing site, Ngamba Chimpanzee Island, Bigidi Swamps for the illussive shoebill stock, the night spots and shopping malls are some of the attractions that will keep you in Entebbe for a while before/after you gorilla trekking safari adventure.
Jinja is a town in southern Uganda, on the shore of Lake Victoria. The source of the Nile, at Coronation Park, is marked by a garden and a monument honoring British explorer John Hanning Speke. Owen Falls Dam and Bujagali Dam both span the Nile river. Farther north on the river, Itanda Falls is known for its white-water rapids. East of Jinja, on Lake Victoria, Samuka Island is home to birdlife, including little egrets. Situated in an area of sugar plantations, Jinja is a lake-fishing port and the trade and industrial center of eastern Uganda.
Jinja is s colonial town or industrial town as know to many travelers. Industries include textiles, copper smelting, soybean and grain processing, cotton and sugar milling, brewing, and manufacture of plywood and cigarettes. A dam and a large hydroelectric plant are located at Owen Falls, 2.4 km (1.5 miles) north of the city. Bugembe, the traditional capital of the former Busoga Kingdom, is nearby. Population is estimated at 100,000.
Uganda Travel Guide Tip: Add those top major cities to your Uganda safari, mostly at the end or begining to actually have a good memory of having enjoyed Uganda. The wildlife is great, but if you want to know the food, the people, the languages, the culture, music, art, nightlife and a little something to talk about this tiny country, make sure you visit Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe. These cities are not far apart at all (Approx. 30km apart) and the roads are good.
Mbale: a town in eastern Uganda, in Eastern Region, at the foot of Mount Elgon. It is one of the nation’s largest urban areas and the commercial center for a coffee-producing agricultural region. Mbale is linked by rail with Kampala (Uganda’s capital) and Nairobi (in Kenya) and by highway with Kampala. Population is approximately 70,000.
Uganda’s Tour Attractions
Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees & Other Primates
Uganda’s star attraction is the endangered mountain gorilla, the bulkiest of living primates. Coming face to face with these gentle giants that share 95% of their genes with humans, is a thrilling experience of a life time. Within Uganda, eleven habituated Gorilla troops, ten in Bwindi and one in Mgahinga National Park, can be visited by tourists daily. Mountain Mgahinga National Park is the main home of the mountain gorillas.
Uganda is also home to man’s closest relative, the chimpanzee. Chimpanzee communities have been habituated for tourism at Kibale Forest, Budongo Forest and Queen Elizabeth National Parks. Monkeys are exceptionally well represented in Uganda. Kibale National Park is a primatologist’s dream. It hosts a population of half a dozen readily observed monkey species including the acrobatic red colobus and black and white colobus and the handsome L’Hoest’s monkey. Indeed, Kibale Forest boasts the greatest primate variety and density in East Africa, with five or six species likely to be observed over the course of one afternoon walk. Elsewhere Mgahinga National Park hosts habituated troops of the rare golden monkey while Murchison Falls is one of the few East African strongholds for the spindly, plains dwelling patas monkey.
Uganda Travel Guide Tip: Visiting the gorillas in their natural habitat is commonly termed as Gorilla Trekking or Gorilla Tracking. And same goes for visiting Chimpanzees, chimpanzee tracking. That’s because these endangered animals are always on the move and these forests are large, so tourists can to follow a guide that will track them and lead you to them. To perform that activity, every tourist has to purchase a permit with Uganda Wildlife Authority, which money you pay helps in habituating those animals and take care of them for you to be able to view them. So, every gorilla trekking safari package or chimpanzee tracking tour package price will sometimes include the price of a permit. Uganda Travel Guide recommends a Uganda Gorilla Permit costs USD $600 per person and a Uganda Chimpanzee permit costs USD $150 per person.
Uganda is Africa’s most complete bird watching destination, with more than 1,000 species recorded within an area comparable to that of Great Britain. Specialist birding tours through Western Uganda routinely notch up an incredible tally of 400 species within two weeks, while enthusiastic amateurs might reasonably hope to aim for 300 species within the same time.
For dedicated ornithologists, Uganda’s prime attraction is the presence of more than 100 West African forest species at the most easterly and most accessible extent of their range. This alluring list of forest specialists includes the psychedelie Great Blue Turaco and the raucous Black and White Casqued Hornbill as well as the gem like Green Broadbill and 23 other species endemic to the Albertine Rift. Uganda is the best place to see what many rate as the most sought after African bird the Shoebill, a massive prehistoric looking swamp dweller notable for its heavy clog shaped bill.
Birdlife is prolific throughout Uganda, but certain key sites should be included in any ornithological itinerary. In the west these include Bwindi National Park for Albertine Rift endemics, Queen Elizabeth National Park for a peerless checklist of 600 species, Semuliki National Park for Congo Basin endemics, Mabamba Swamp near Entebbe for Shoebill, the community run guided trail through Bigodi Wetland near Kibale forest for Great Blue Turaco and other colourful forest birds, and Murchison Falls National Park for savannah specialists such as Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-Throated Bee Eater and Denham’s Bustard. A key birding location in eastern Uganda is Lake Bisina a stronghold for the endemic Fox’s Weaver as well as papyrus dwellers such as Shoebill and Papyrus Gonolek.
The lowest lying and more remote Semuliki National Park, an extension of the Congo’s Ituri Rainforest set at the base of the northern Rwenzori, is of special interest to ornithologists for some 40 Congolese bird species recorded nowhere else in the country. Nearby, the spectacular Semuliki Wildlife Reserve, which borders Lake Albert, is one of the best localities for sighting of the enigmatic, swamp dwelling shoebill.
The River Nile
A visit to the source of the River Nile in Jinja as it starts its 6500 Kilometer journey to the Mediterranean Sea is a moving and wondrous experience. A couple of Kilometers from the source of this mighty river are spectacular waterfalls and rapids; the setting for some of the world’s best white-water rafting and bungee jumping spots. Its crowning glory, however, is Murchison Falls, where the river funnels through a narrow fissure in the Rift Escarpment to erupt out of the other side in a crashing 43 meter-plume of white water blowing a fine mist high into the sky filled with dancing rainbows. The view from a boat below also gives a sensational view of the majestic falls surrounded by profuse birdlife, thousands of hippos and outsized gape mouthed crocodiles.
Trekking the Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzori Mountains, sometimes referred to as the “Mountains of the Moon”, are a world class hiking and mountaineering destination popular with climbers who trek through rainforest and alpine meadows to the snowcapped Margherita summit at 5109 meters. The Mountains climb high from the Albertine Rift Valley floor and provide a stunning backdrop to the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The highest peaks are permanently snow capped and although they are often surrounded by clouds, you do get the rare opportunity to see their massive existence in full. The Rwenzoris are host to the widest variety of mountain flora in Africa and for this reason, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You have a chance to see this fantastic scenery in an awesome way!
Uganda travel guide recommends: 10 Day Mt Rwenzori Expedition (Margherita Peak Climb)
Trekking Mount Elgon
Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano with the largest surface area in the world (50 km by 80km) and a caldera which covers over 40km at the top of the mountain. The highest peak is Wagagai, 4.321 m. It lies at the border with Kenya in Eastern Uganda. On the foot of Mount Elgon you can find Sipi falls; a paradise full of flowers, birds, waterfalls and creeks. At least 3 waterfalls can be visited in a full day hike. To make your trip even more active you can go Rock climbing or abseiling from a 100 meter high waterfall! The best times to climb Mount Elgon are during the dry seasons of June-August and December-March. No technical climbing equipment or skills are required to reach the main caldera and the peaks, while on the way, a choice of trails are interesting because of the unique flora and fauna, waterfalls, lakes, caves, gorges and hot springs. A lush mosaic of Afro montane forest grassland and moorland habitants makes this park a highly rewarding destination for hikers and other natural history enthusiasts.
Uganda Travel guide recommends: 14 Day Uganda Wildlife Holiday Total Safari Tour
Rafting and Bungee Jumping on the Mighty Nile
Active people just can’t miss the spectacular rafting trip on the white waters of the Nile. The River offers opportunities for Grade Five water rafting at the World’s famous Bujagali and Itanda falls. This trip is guaranteed to get your heart pumping and adrenaline flowing. At this river one gets the chance to challenge your fear of heights by bungee jumping over the best spots for this sport. Even if you do not engage in adrenaline adventures the experience of exploring an undiscovered part of the Nile with its beautiful surroundings makes this trip spectacular.
Uganda Travel Guide recommends: 5 Day Murchison Falls and Source of the Nile Adventure
Canoeing and Hiking on Lake Bunyonyi
In the south west of Uganda lies one of the deepest lakes in Africa, Lake Bunyonyi, at 2950+ feet (900+ metres) deep. The landscape around the lake is made up of steep slopes covered with lush green vegetation protruding from the water’s edge. Bunyonyi means “place of many little birds” and as the name suggests, there is plenty of bird life around the lake. The lake also plays host to freshwater crayfish, one of the few places in Uganda they can be found. With many resorts on the lake shores and on the many islands in the lake, there are plenty of spots to enjoy this beautiful lake from. You get to know seven islands, stay with local families, meet the Batwa (‘Pygmies’) and admire views of volcanoes.
Uganda travel guide recommends: 4 Day Gorilla Trekking and Bunyonyi Safari
Kampala is the capital city of Uganda and it has been famously described as the legendary Rome; a city on 7 hills and the green city in the sun. In the past two decades it has blossomed and currently spreads over more than twenty hills. Under the Urban adventure menu we give you the opportunity to traverse the major landmarks in this humble city to experience the historical monuments that have shaped the destiny of this great African nation. We have 2 short excursion packages that will excite you:
This is a professionally guided tour around the city centre that includes visits to the Uganda Museum, Bahai Temple, Namugongo Martyrs shrine, Kasubi tombs, and craft shops in Kampala City etc. These tours give a tourist an understanding of the Kampala City folk life style, the culture, the traditions and history. This tour covers approximately 50 kilometers taking about half a day to complete. You will end your day with great photos and new memories! As you make your way through, your guide will provide interesting narration, answer questions and walk you through each exploration stop.
Merry go Tour
If you love having a fun filled experience then this tour package is just for you. This package will get you laughing till you crack your ribs. Here, we will take you to all the fun places like the Comedy nights to watch Uganda’s best standup comedians and to experience the local music, dance and drama productions of the country. Also included in this amazing tour package is a guided walking tour of the streets of Kampala and an escorted ride where you will see an aerial view of the city from one of the hills of Kampala.
Uganda’s Wildlife Animals
Sprawling across both sides of the equator, a network of 10 national parks and several other protected areas offers wildlife enthusiasts a thrilling opportunity to experience Uganda’s biodiversity, not only the mesmerizing tracts of thorn bush savannah teeming with antelope, buffalo and elephant one tends to associate with equatorial East Africa, but also lush expanses of tropical rainforest, shimmering lakes and rivers heaving with aquatic life, and the glacial peaks of Africa’s tallest mountain range.
The country’s largest protected area is Murchison Falls National Park, whose palm studded grassland supports dense populations of lion, buffalo, elephant and Uganda kob, together with the localized Rothschild’s giraffe and patas monkey. Immense concentrations of hippos and birds can be observed from morning and afternoon launch trips along the Nile below the spectacular waterfall for which the park is named.
Set majestically in the shadow of the Rwenzori, flanking Lakes Edward and George, the lush savannah of Queen Elizabeth National Park offers prime grazing to buffalo, elephant and antelope while the forested reserves of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is best known for its superb gorilla trekking but it also provides refuge to elephants, chimpanzees, monkeys and various small antelope species. Mammalian specialties include the giant forest hog, and the legendary tree climbing lions of the Ishasha Sector.
The closest savannah wildlife reserve to Kampala, Lake Mburo National Park and the green acacia woodland surrounding the lake harbours dense populations of zebra, warthog, buffalo, impala and various other grazers, including the last surviving Ugandan population of eland, the largest of African antelopes.
In the far northeast, the remote wild and little visited Kidepo Valley National Park provides refuge to a long list of dry country species not found elsewhere in the country, including cheetah and greater kudu, while its perennial waters attract large numbers of elephant and thousand strong buffalo herds, especially during the dry season.
Travel Guide Tip: The best safari parks in Uganda that you’ll be well assured to actually find a good number of animals on your off-the-beaten-track game drive are Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Park. When booking a savannah wildlife safari, make sure at least one of these safari parks are listed on the itinerary route.
Roughly one quarter of Uganda’s surface area consists of wetlands, ranging from vast inland seas to the mysterious marshy expanse of Lake Kyoga, formed by the Nile as it drains into a show sump at the very centre of the country. The northwestern third of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater body falls within Uganda’s boundaries, while the impressively scenic lakes Albert, George and Edward extend along the Albertine Rift Valley floor bordering the Congo.
Renowned for its water birds and dense population of otters, mountain ringed Lake Bunyonyi is one of Uganda’s most rapidly developing wetland destinations with its steep sided shores and small islands dotted with rustic hotels and campsites. Another rising attraction is the cluster of 200 crater lakes that extends northward from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Fort Portal, reaching its scenic peak in the vicinity of Kibale Forest, where several forest fringed lakes have been developed as community based ecotourism projects.
The jewel in Lake Victoria’s crown is the Ssese Archipelago, whose 84 islands, some large and dotted with local fishing villages, others small and uninhabited are all lushly forested. Mainlanders traditionally revere Ssese as the Islands of the Gods, and one specific island called Bubembe is regarded to be home to Mukasa, the spirit presiding over Lake Victoria. The Ssese Islands make for an ideal retreat after a long safari and they also offer superb opportunities for bird watching and for hooking heavyweight Nile Perch.
Uganda is a tropical country and much of it lies on the African plateau between 900-1,500 meters above sea level. This gives Uganda a nice tropical climate, with temperatures averaging between 21 and 27 degrees Celsius during the day and between 12 and 18 degrees Celsius at night. The hottest months are from December to February, with 27 to 29 degrees Celsius. The rainy seasons are from April to May and October to November.
Ecologically, Uganda is where the East African savannah meets the West African jungle. Where else but in this impossibly lush country can one observe lions prowling the open plains in the morning and track chimpanzees through the rainforest undergrowth the same afternoon, then the next day navigate tropical channels teeming with hippos and crocs before setting off into the mystery mountains to stare deep into the eyes of destination whose range of forest primates is as impressive as its selection of plains antelope. And this verdant biodiversity is further attested to by Uganda’s status as by far the smallest of the four African countries whose bird checklist tops the 1,000 mark!
Yet there is more to the country than wildlife. There are the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori, which provide a tantalizing challenge to dedicated mountaineers, as well as the Virunga Volcanoes and Mount Elgon, both of which offer highly rewarding hiking opportunities through scintillating highland scenery.
More sedately, the myriad islands of Lake Victoria and Lake Bunyonyi are idyllic venues, as are the myriad forest-fringed crater lakes that stud the rift valley floor and escarpment around Fort Portal. Whether you’re a first time safari-goer or a seasoned African traveler, Uganda, with its unique blend of savannah and forest creatures, and the rare wealth of montane and lake habitats, is simply dazzling.
Other trivial Uganda Travel Guide Tips
Most tourists get to Uganda through the Entebbe International Airport. Uganda can also be reached by road from Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. On arrival,a visa for those who require one can be purchased on the spot at the Airport or at any overland border. Foreign exchange and ATM facilities are available at the airport which is also serviced by several shops and restaurants. Most midrange to up-market hotels in Kampala and Entebbe arrange airport transfers to the Capital, 40 Km from the Airport. Local time is GMT +3.
Driving is on the left side. Visitors without experience of African roads are advised to organize a vehicle with a driver rather than self drive.
Educated Ugandans are generally fluent in English which is the official language of 30 plus different indigenous languages. Luganda serves as something of a lingua franca.
A certificate of yellow fever vaccination is required. All visitors should take malaria prophylactic drugs. It is advisable to drink bottled rather than tap water.
The unit of currency is the Uganda shilling. The US dollar is traditionally the hard currency of preference, but Euro and Pound Sterling are also widely accepted. Foreign currency can be changed for local currency at banks and private bureau de change in all large towns, but Travelers cheques are not widely accepted outside Kampala. Local currency can be drawn against Visa or Mastercard and other major credit cards at selected ATMs in Kampala, at Entebbe International Airport, and in a few other large towns.
When to Visit
Uganda can be visited at any time, though mountain hikes, gorilla tracking and other forest walks are more challenging during the rains which generally peak over mid September to November and March to May.
What to wear
Daytime temperatures are generally warm to hot, so bring lots of light clothing. Evenings are cooler especially at high altitudes so carry a couple of light sweaters too. Those who intend to hike on the mountains will be exposed to alpine temperatures and should pack accordingly. Solid walking shoes and sturdy clothing are ideal for forest walks. Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses and a water proof jacket.
What to bring
A valid passport is mandatory, and visa requirements should be checked before you travel. To make the most of the game reserves and national parks carry binoculars and field guides. Photographers will need a zoom lens for wildlife (70-300 or similar). Print film and developing is available in Kampala. Toiletries and other essentials can be bought locally in most places.
Apply for a Uganda tourist visa online to avoid long cues at the Airport. Or get a trusted travel consultant to help you process a visa and other important documents before you get here. Uganda also issue East Africa Tourist visas that can allow you to visit the East African countries with the same document. No Hustle.
Tipping is not standard practice at local hotels and restaurants, but it will always be appreciated. It is normal to tip 5-10% at tourist oriented restaurants. Safari Guides and drivers should always be tipped.
Food & drink
Tourist oriented hotels and restaurants serve good western style meals while a wider range of cuisines are available in the capital and some larger towns. Local restaurants serve Ugandan dishes typically posho (a stiff maize porridge) or matooke (cooked banana) eaten with a stew.
What to buy
A wide selection of local handicrafts is available as souvenirs. These include musical instruments, such as the hide drums as well as excellent local basketwork, paintings, batiks and pottery. You can find these shops at the Airport, Entebbe, Kampala markets or along your safari route.