The Definitive Uganda Safari Guide: Why Tour Uganda, Where To Visit, Best Time & affordable Safari Packages
Everything you need to know before visiting Uganda
Updated on January 2020
Five (5) top attractions that form the highlights of Uganda safari tours are gorilla trekking safaris, wildlife tours, birding safaris, cultural tours and white water rafting.
Over 480 gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. About 330 mammal species are key to the Uganda Wildlife safaris in the 10 national parks, game reserves and sanctuaries.
With over 1065 confirmed bird species in Uganda, bird watching tours are a top choice. Almost 50% of Africa’s bird species can be spotted in the country.
About 20 primates can be seen in Uganda the popular one being the chimpanzees known to be in large numbers within Kibale Forest National Park.
Cultural tours in Uganda can be amazing since the country hosts about 56 tribes with different traditions and cultures yet still living harmoniously. This attests to the fact that Uganda is host to Africa’s most hospitable people.
Kabira Uganda safaris offers the latest and most updated information and guide on safaris in Uganda with a highlight of the best time to visit, where to visit, how to best plan, safari activities and attractions as well as the latest safari news.
Why Safari Uganda/Visit Uganda?
Uganda is undoubtedly one of the best Africa safari destinations featured on many international travel sources as a must visit destination.
Uganda was named as a must visit destination on the National Geographic Travellers Cool List 2019 and in many journals as a place to visit before you die. Here is why any traveler should choose to take a Uganda safari through the Pearl of Africa;
- Gorilla trekking
Gorilla trekking safaris in Uganda are unrivaled, they create lifetime experiences with a feel of the true aliveness of the African jungle.
Mountain Gorillas are known to live only in Uganda, Rwanda and Congo but Uganda is definitely always the best choice.
Both Bwindi and Mgahinga parks offer affordable gorilla trekking tours at USD 600 for foreign non residents until June 2020 and USD 700 from then on.
This is half price for the trek in Rwanda and Congo is disturbed with political unrest.
Uganda has the highest gorilla family number with 19 habituated Mountain Gorillas available for trekking.
It’s still only in Bwindi where tourists can have a gorilla habituation experience since a few of the mountain gorillas haven’t been fully habituated yet. Both trekking and habituation offer African Adventure Travellers a lifetime experience.
- Chimpanzee trekking
Kibale Forest National Park is dubbed the primate capital of the world because of the high chimpanzee population in the park.
Chimpanzee trekking safaris Uganda are the best way of getting close to man’s closest relatives in their natural habitats.
Other spots for chimp tracking on a safari in Uganda include the Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Budongo forest just adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park and in Kalinzu forest.
For Uganda safari tourists with limited time, visiting Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary is much rewarding.
Here you don’t trek the chimpanzees but interact with them in their rescue centre as well as learning a lot from their behavior.
- Murchison Falls
About 300 cubic meters of water are squeezed through a 7 meters gorge each second falling 43 meters below forming the world’s most powerful waterfalls – Murchison Falls.
A safari in Murchison Falls National Park offers a chance to glimpse at the scenic falls formed on the Nile River.
Murchison Falls safaris offer perfect opportunities for photography and sightseeing.
A hike to the top of the mighty falls and a boat cruise to the bottom of the falls are the best way of exploring the falls.
These and more can be experienced on a 2 days Murchison Falls Safari.
- Wildlife safaris
Uganda is host to about 330 mammal species and therefore a great destination for wildlife tours in Africa. Safari Uganda and have the chance to view several wildlife species.
Some of the wildlife species seen in Uganda include the big five African game which are Buffaloes, Lions, Leopards, Rhinos and Elephants.
Other wildlife species include several antelopes like the Elands (biggest antelope) and the dik dik (smallest antelope), Rock hyrax, Zebras, Giraffes, Warthogs, Oribis, Side striped jackal, Bushbucks, waterbuck, cheetahs and many more.
Primate species include the Patas monkey, Black and White Colobus monkey, golden monkeys, olive baboons and many more.
- Hiking trips
Mountain Rwenzori and Mount Elgon are the ideal hiking safari destinations in Uganda. Mountain Rwenzori hosts the highest peak in the country at an altitude of 5,109m above sea level.
The hike to the peak of the Rwenzoris last at least 8 days.
Mount Elgon has its highest altitude at 4,321m above sea level with three popular hiking trails of Sasa, Piswa and the Sipi trails.
Hiking Mount Elgon takes about 4-6 days depending on the hikers’ ability.
Other hiking trip destinations in Uganda include Mgahinga Volcano hike, Mount Moroto hike in north Eastern Uganda and a hike to Kagulu hills in Buyende district.
- White water rafting
White water rafting at the source of the Nile River in Jinja is the perfect way to get your adrenaline hyped.
The rafts explode through huge walls of white water and drift through the warm green pools of the beautiful tropical sunshine.
Having a white water rafting experience in Jinja is just one perfect way any adventure lover can have an amazing experience on the Nile waters.
Rafting can be undertaken in different grades, ranging from grade 5 to grade 3, family rafting and other milder rafting experiences can also be undertaken by families.
- Bird watching safaris
Bird watching tours in Uganda are perfect for avid birders, seasoned birders, groups, families and solo travelers. Uganda has over 1,065 confirmed bird species distributed all through the borders of the country.
Depending on what a birder would love to see, bird watching tours are good all year round. The Fox’s weaver is endemic to Uganda and found in the Eastern part of the country. Grey Crowned Crane is the country’s national bird.
Shoebill stork is the sought after bird species by many of the birders in Uganda.
24 Albertine Rift endemics can also be seen in Uganda and these include the Ruwezori Batis, Handsome Francolin, and many more.
Best bird watching spots include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Mabamba wetland, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Semuliki National Park and many more.
- The people and cultures
Cultural tours in Uganda can be in any part of the country with about 56 tribes that have different cultures and traditions.
Taking cultural visits helps you have an insight of the traditions of Ugandans including music, dance, drama and livelihoods.
Planning to have cultural safaris in Uganda can best be done on a long safari that is tailored with wildlife, birding or gorilla safaris.
The smallest tribes in Uganda include the Batwa pygmies and the IK people in South western and north Eastern Uganda respectively.
Options for a Uganda safari are endless with almost all of the wildlife species of East Africa seen here.
The only difference is that Uganda is a less crowded destination and therefore you take advantage of viewing wildlife with less interruptions.
This is a perfect way of getting lost into nature!
How Do You Know The Best Uganda Tour Operator?
Uganda has many safari companies / tour operators and can be found on the internet. While planning to take tours to Uganda, remember to always use a prominent safari company.
A recommendable company should have tours related to those you would love to have, a well detailed website, clear contact and location details.
A genuine company will always have clear payment methods and efficient with communication.
Kabira Uganda Safaris & Tours Ltd. meets these requirements and works with partners in the tourism industry such as Association of Uganda Tour Operators, Africa Tour Operators and others.
Services are tailored according to your preference and therefore the top option for any kind of safari or trip to Uganda.
Why Must You Choose Uganda As Your Safari Destination?
Uganda has much to offer, the reason it is actually dubbed the Pearl of Africa. In case you are wondering why you should choose Uganda as your next safari destination, then there’s a lot.
Just as you arrive into Uganda, the biggest lake on the African continent – Lake Victoria will calm you down with the cool breeze.
Weather in Uganda is pleasant since its straddled by the equator line with temperatures at an average of about 22 degrees Celsius year round.
This weather makes safaris perfect most of the time of the year. Even in the rainy season, don’t be surprised to have the day bright and the sun is shining.
Gorilla safaris Uganda are the top safari activity with the highest number of habituated mountain gorillas in the country. Other extremely amazing activities include hiking, birding, fishing at Murchison Falls, wildlife tours and several adventure trips.
Every kilometer you move in Uganda the scenery changes. The country is scenic and very beautiful to the eyesight.
It never gets boring on the long drives with greenery in the background formed by several forests that form 6.3% of the total land area.
Fresh fruit will always make your meals tastier. Uganda serves much of fresh foods grown from within the country as well as lots of fruits in the markets and many spots.
The pineapples, sweet bananas, papaya, jackfruit and many more are juicy and must not be missed on your trip.
What To See While On Safari To Uganda ?
Wildlife: Uganda is an African Big Five wild game viewing safari destination where the Buffaloes, Elephants, Lions, Leopards and Rhinos can be seen roaming on the savannah plains.
Wildlife safaris Uganda offer much more wild species with about 330 mammal species.
About 7 species are endangered, 17, near threatened, 2 vulnerable and no more critically endangered species since Mountain gorilla numbers increased to 1004.
Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees are also part of the wildlife species found in large numbers within Uganda rather than in any other destination in the African continent.
Birds – Birding tours in Uganda are perfect for avid birders, seasoned birders, groups, families and solo travelers. Uganda has over 1,065 confirmed bird species distributed all through the borders of the country.
Shoebill stork is the sought after bird species by many of the birders in Uganda. 24 Albertine Rift endemics can also be seen in Uganda and these include the Ruwezori Batis, Handsome Francolin, and many more.
Scenery – Uganda is beautiful, in every kilometer you move in Uganda the scenery changes. The country is scenic and very beautiful to the eyesight.
It never gets boring on the long drives with greenery in the background formed by several forests that form 6.3% of the total land area.
Visit historical and cultural sites – With lots of traditions and cultures, Uganda safaris get amazing when you take a visit to these cultural sites.
Some of the sites include the Uganda museum where you can learn about almost all about Uganda.
Kasubi tombs also within Kampala is a preservation point for the traditions of the Baganda- a Bantu tribe within the central region.
Architecture here is traditional with a touch of the old and original way of construction in the typical African setting.
Accommodation / Where To Stay on Ugandan Safaris?
As tourist numbers increase in Uganda each year, the need for accommodation in safari lodges and hotels has also been catered for.
Lodging can be accessed from the city and several towns and even in the African wild after great moments in the adventure trails.
Luxury/Up Market Accommodation facilities are offered at 5 star hotels and lodges and these pamper you throughout your stay.
These are high end accommodation facilities and the most expensive of all. In Kampala Serena hotel is one of the many luxury hotels.
Mid-range/standard Accommodation is as accessible as any other throughout the country. In the Uganda safari parks, these are convenient and offer lodging facilities in lodges and tented camps.
Many of these are built in traditional settings a good example being the Kidepo Savannah Lodge in Kidepo Valley National Park.
Budget/Basic Accommodations is ready to offer lodging facilities to travelers on small budgets. Though not with the high end touch and pampering, budget lodges and bandas offer great meals and housing along with great hospitality. The Uganda Wildlife Authority constructed bandas in many of the parks and therefore offering budget accommodation easily.
Camping is a great way of experiencing the wild while on safari to Uganda. For backpackers this is an affordable and easy way to have your accommodation sorted. You can carry your camping gear but can also rent from the park through a safari company. Learn More
What is the Best Time to Visit Uganda?
Best time could probably be the key to a memorable tour. Many travelers wonder what the best time to visit Uganda could actually be. Uganda is situated along the equator a fact that makes it have a milder climate and no extreme weather conditions. Average temperatures are about 21 degrees Celsius and may drop to 12 degrees celsius.
You can visit Uganda throughout the year. However, it depends on where you are visiting since the wet and dry seasons vary. The best time of the year to tour is during the dry season months in the months of June – August and December to February.
Why safari Uganda in the dry season? When the rains are less, the trails in the parks are drier and therefore less slippery making driving and hiking very easy. The grass is also short and therefore photography becomes clear and sightings better.
However, unlike any other safari destination in Uganda, Kidepo Valley National Park receives one rainy season which is between April-August. This is the best season for other parks and not for Kidepo. The other months of the year are good for visiting the park though December – February can get too hot at times.
Many will tell you the best time of the year to visit Uganda is in the dry season or all throughout the year, but now you can tell why. The country and tour destinations remain open all year throughout and therefore open to tourists though the experience may vary a little.
The time referred to as the best time is always the peak season and therefore parks and accommodation facilities become congested. This makes visiting during the rainy season more preferable. Accommodation facilities may also offer discounts during the rainy season.
How Much Does a Safari Cost in Uganda?
If you are wondering how much a safari to Uganda may cost, there is no single cost for a trip to the country but here is highlight of what determines the cost of your safari. The price of the trip is determined by the destinations you choose, some have more and expensive activities than others.
Where you stay which is the lodge or hotel is a big determinant to the total cost of your trip. Luxury accommodation options will automatically lead to higher costs than budget or Mid-range accommodations. Even in the same class of accommodation some lodges are more expensive than others, 900 USD could just be for 1 night at some Lodges.
The number of days you spend on the trip determine how much you will spend. Long safaris in Uganda will definitely be more expensive than short trips. On average you could be spending about 250 USD per person on a single day trip to Lake Mburo National Park.
The bigger the group, the less each individual pays for the trip. Solo traveler trips are more expensive than group tours. When the group is bigger, costs are shared and therefore each person could pay much less than the cost of a solo traveller. It is possible to save over 300 USD per person on a shared 3 days trip.
Sample Uganda Safari Tour Packages
Wondering how a safaris to Uganda could be planned? These sample packages are well tailored to give you what it looks like to have a trip in Uganda. The sample packages are both short and long tours that were well planned and undertaken by different travellers.
2 Days Murchison Falls safari Uganda
3 Days Bwindi gorilla trekking safari
3 Days Bwindi gorilla safari from Kigali
6 Days Uganda gorilla trekking & wildlife tour
8 Days Uganda Wildlife tour & gorilla trekking safari
9 Days Uganda Wildlife Safari & White Water Rafting tour
How Unique is Uganda from other Africa Safari Destinations?
Winston Churchill was wowed and named Uganda the Pearl of Africa even before having a gorilla trekking or chimpanzee tracking experience. This is because Uganda is an extraordinary safari destination with lots of endemics and friendly people.
Half of the world’s Mountain Gorillas, the worlds’ most powerful waterfalls, highest mountain ranges, almost half of Africa’s bird species, world’s longest river, Africa’s largest freshwater lake, biggest chimpanzee numbers and the continents most friendly people are all in Uganda.
Surprising how all of these wonders fit in a single country just 236,040 sq km! this makes the Uganda unique and indeed tour to Uganda on top of traveler bucket lists.
Is it Safe to Visit Uganda?
For the past several decades Uganda has not had any political unrests and therefore a very safe destination to visit. Even without a tour guide, a tourist can easily move around the country and take their own self drive trip, that’s how safe Uganda is.
Ugandans have been named several times as the friendliest people of the African continent and many tourists have witnessed this. Above all, it’s the people of Uganda that make this beautiful land a warm place to visit.
Is the Ugandan Weather Conducive to Tourists?
Straddling the equator, Uganda has no extreme weather conditions or winter and summer conditions, the weather is mild. During the day temperatures range from 24-33°C (52-91°F) during the hottest months and reaching up to 40°C/104°F in the far northern part of the country.
It can rain any time of the year and the country doesn’t have extreme weather conditions. For travelers from all over the world, the weather in Uganda is favorable and may not affect so much. However, it is recommended to drink a lot of water during safari and also carry a brimmed hat. You could easily get sun burns.
Depending on the season of the year always carry appropriate safari clothing. Even with the high temperatures, you may need to wear long sleeved shirts and trousers for protection from brittles.
Uganda Safari Destinations / Where to go for safari in Uganda ?
With no doubt Uganda is preferably the best Africa safari destination blessed with diversity of nature. Uganda is crossed by the equator, host to many mountains, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife and many more attractions.
Numerous attractions and activities in Uganda can easily leave you undecided on where to go. We can’t choose where your Uganda safari can be but we can only help you with the highlight of what is where.
Here are highlights on where to go for Uganda safaris;
Murchison Falls safaris are the most popular short tours in Uganda taken on 3 days and 2 days trips. Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s oldest and largest safari park covering 3,840 sq. km and home to the worlds’ most powerful waterfalls-Murchison Falls.
Murchison Falls National Park offers wildlife tours with about 76 mammal species including Elephants, Buffaloes, Lions and Leopards. Almost 450 bird species can be seen in the park. Aquatic species, butterflies, reptiles and many more are also in the park. Learn More
Chimpanzee trekking safaris in Uganda are the popular safari activity in Kibale Forest National Park. The park is home to 13 primate species and the best place to visit for a chimpanzee tracking safari.
Chimp tracking costs USD 150 for foreign non residents, USD 100 for foreign residents and 150,000UGX for East Africa citizens valid till 1st July 2020. From then Foreign non residents will pay 200 USD, Foreign residents 150 USD and still 150,000 UGX for East Africans. Learn More
Covering 1,978 sq. km, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the second popularly visited Uganda safari park popular for the tree climbing lions. The park is divided by the equator line and home to over 95 mammal species.
Extending from Lake George in the north-east to Lake Edward in the south west, the park has the highest concentration of bird species. About 600 bird species are known to be within the boundaries of the park, a total no where else in any national park in Uganda. With the numerous wildlife and bird species, this is a true medley of wonders. Learn More
Dubbed the true African wilderness with its beauty that has mostly gone unnoticed as stated by CNN Travel. Kidepo Valley National Park is a perfect wilderness to visit on any safari in Uganda.
The park is about 1,442 sq. km, hosting about 77 mammal species, 475 bird species several reptiles and flora. The Dik Dik (smallest antelope), cheetahs, ostriches, Karamoja Apalis are endemic to Kidepo Valley National Park. Learn More
Lake Mburo National Park is the closest safari park of Uganda from kampala -Uganda’s capital. This is the best national park for walking safari in Uganda since the park has no known carnivores, a reason its dubbed whispers of the wild.
Walking safaris, cycling, quad biking, horse riding game drives, boat cruise and bird watching are the best activities in the park. Lake Mburo National Park covers about 370 sq km underlined by ancient pre cambrian rocks hosting about 350 bird species and 68 mammal species. Learn More
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the top gorilla trekking safari Uganda destination hosting almost half of the world’s remaining Mountain Gorillas. 19 mountain gorilla families have been habituated and open to trekking by tourists world over.
With over 400 Mountain gorillas, there 99.9% chances of seeing these giants. Mountain gorilla habituation is also only possible in Bwindi Forest. Aside from the gorillas, 23 out of the 24 Albertine rift endemic bird species are within Bwindi. Learn More
This is the ultimate hiking destination in Uganda with the highest peak at 5,109 m above sea level. Hiking these mountain ranges is strenuous and lasts for about 8 days, however, there are also less tiring hikes that include nature walks and day hikes on the slopes of the mountain.
Giant Lobelia form the beautiful vegetation of the Mountain slopes. The Rwenzori Mountains also host over 70 mammal species, 217 bird species including 19 Albertine rift endemics. Hiking or mountain climbing safaris to Uganda can be combined with bird watching tours. Learn More
With the highest point at 1,121 sq. km, Mount Elgon is Uganda’s oldest physical feature found in Eastern Uganda at the border with Kenya. Its host to the world’s largest volcanic base 80km in diameter.
It’s a more favorable hiking destination compared to the higher Rwenzori Mountains. Mount Elgon is also host to about 300 bird species and surrounded by the tribes of the Bagisu and Sabiny that you can visit for a cultural tour. Learn more
Semuliki National Park covers about 220 sq. km and known as the birders paradise because of the special forest bird species within the park. The park is host to about 441 bird species and 53 mammals with the famous hot springs.
Some of the bird species in Semuliki National Park include the Spot-breasted Ibis, Nkulengu Rail, Long-tailed Hawk, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Blcak-throated Coucal, White-billed Kingfisher, Piping Hornbill and many more. Learn More
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park contributes to the big number of Mountain Gorillas in Uganda as it hosts 1 gorilla family known as Nyakagezi. The park is within the virunga ranges adjacent to Virunga National Park in Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Birding in Mgahinga is another rewarding activity aside from gorilla trekking. About 180 bird species have been recorded within the park including the Albertine rift endemics like the Rwenzori Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Nightjar and many others. Learn More
Other Africa Safaris Tours /Combined Safari Trips
Africa has a lot to offer with each destination being unique from the other. Many Uganda safari tourists always tailor their safari in Uganda with Kenya safaris, wildlife safaris in Tanzania, Rwanda Safaris, Congo safaris and to many other countries.