Wildlife in Tanzania

A few gasps are heard, before silence spreads across the jeep. Breath held, you watch ahead nervously, un moving. The wildebeest miraculously evades the vice-like grip of a lion’s jaw, and frantically flees to the riverbank. Now, he faces the crocodile-infested waters of the Mara River.

Wildlife in Tanzania at a glance

A full one-third of Tanzania’s land mass is protected due to the creation of 16 national parks. This makes the country perfect for safaris and wildlife viewing. 

Thanks to this vast amount of protected land, at least 20% of Africa’s large mammal population are spread across reserves, conservation areas, and marine parks in Tanzania.

Tanzania is famous for its biodiversity, its large populations of big cats, and the Great Migration.

Tanzania is also a popular destination for chimpanzee trekking, and is a hit with scuba diving enthusiasts who flock to Zanzibar to enjoy the blue crystalline waters and rich under sea life.

Wildlife in Tanzania
Wildlife in Tanzania

Race against the crocs, Serengeti National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Basking in the evening sun, Ruaha National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Vice-like grip, Ruaha National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Emerald-greens, Ruaha National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

A close encounter, game drive at Ruaha.Wildlife in Tanzania

Fighting with friends, Ruaha National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Staring us down, Ruaha National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Pit stop, Ruaha National ParkElephant in river, Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Just passing by, Selous Game ReserveHippo in lake at Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Splashing about, Selous Game ReserveSunset behind elephants at Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

Elephants roaming the marshlands, Selous Game ReserveWildlife in Tanzania

Wildebeest on the plains, Serengeti National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Elephants, acacias, savannah. Welcome to Tanzania.Wildlife in Tanzania

Sunset silhouettes, Serengeti National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Laser-focused, Ruaha National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Race against the crocs, Serengeti National ParkWildlife in Tanzania

Basking in the evening sun, Ruaha National Park

Wildlife in Tanzania

The Big Five

The Big Five: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhino can all be spotted in Tanzania.

All five can be seen in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area. The black rhino is the rarest of the five, but they do live in the Serengeti and Selous Game reserve, but they are easiest to see in the Ngorongoro Crater.

There are elephants and water buffalo in abundance in Tanzania, particularly in the Tarangire National Park, where herds of elephants outnumber people.

The lion is also rather common in Tanzania, with prides of up to 60 living in some areas of the Serengeti. The leopard is less common than the lion, but they can still be seen in Arusha National Park.Lion hunting warthog in Maasai Mara, Kenya

The chase is on, Maasai Mara

Big Cats & Predators

Aside from lions and leopards, other cats include the serval, caracal, and in Ngorongoro, the elusive golden cat.

Cheetahs live in most of the northern parks except Lake Manyara. For the best chance at seeing cheetahs, head to Ruaha National Park.

Other carnivores in Tanzania include several species of jackal, honey badger, rock hyrax, the rare bat-eared fox, spotted and striped hyena, and the remaining population of Africa’s wild dogs, which can be found in Ruaha National Park.Wildlife in Tanzania

Ruaha is home to 10% of the world’s lion populations

Safari Game

On safari, expect to see roan antelope, sable, mongoose, impala, kudu, topis, kongonis, hartebeest (in Tarangire Park), eland, bushbuck, the spiral horned bovines, oryx, Kirk’s dik-dik, and giraffe.

Interestingly, the only place the giraffe cannot be found is in Ngorongoro Crater, it is thought that they cannot get up the steep sides. For the best game-watching action, head to the Serengeti or Tarangire National Park, where the vast and expansive plains allow you to see a number of herds grazing at once.

Tanzania is well-watered (relatively speaking) thanks to its monsoons. This means hippos and crocodiles can be found in most parks, but especially in Katavi National Park. Tanzania is also home to the waterbuck, sitatunga, and common warthog.Wildlife in Tanzania

Embracing the ‘pole pole’ (‘slowly slowly’) lifestyle, Seregenti

The Great Migration

The Great Migration is one of the most extraordinary wildlife events in the world. It takes place in the Serengeti as herds upon herds of wildebeest, zebra, and Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle traverse the savanna in pursuit of water and new grasslands.

In their wake follow predatory cheetah, lion, and leopard. Following the wet season, the wildebeest give birth to over 8,000 calves daily, resulting in half a million calves being born in a week.

Then, they begin their treacherous 2,000-mile journey across the Serengeti to the luscious fields in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. The entire Serengeti ecosystem depends on this migration, with the vast columns of wildebeest providing sustenance for the predators, felines, and birds of prey following them. Wildlife in Tanzania

The Great Migration, a perilous journey.

Bird Life

There are over 1,000 species of bird in Tanzania, some of which are endemic to the country, including the Udzungwa forest partridge, Pemba green pigeon, the Usambara weaver, and the Udzungwa eagle owl.

Ostrich, avocets, bitterns, shags, herons, ibises, jacanas, kingfishers, plovers, sandpipers, snipes can all be found in Tanzania. There are numerous raptors too, such as babblers, bee-eaters, bulbuls, canaries, crows, francolins, falcons. 

In Arusha National Park, you can find the colourful turaco and trogan. In Gombe National Park, there are over 200 species of bird, including the fish eagle and red-throated twinspot.

Wildlife in Tanzania

The Kitulo National Park is home to the Kipengere seedeater, the mountain marsh widow, the endangered blue swallow, Denham’s bustard, and the Njombe cisticola.

Lake Manyara is also a popular spot for bird watchers as there are over 400 species, including cormorants, storks, and pelicans. In Mikumi National Park, you have the chance to see the lilac-breasted roller, the yellow-throated strongclaw, and the bateleur eagle.

In Ruaha, where there are over 150 bird species, there are the yellow-collared lovebird and ashy starling. Flamingos also reside in some alkaline lakes in Tanzania, including in Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Lake Manyara.

Wildlife in Tanzania

Primates

Head to Gombe National Park in the Mahale Mountains for the ultimate Jane Goodall experience (this is where she spent over fifty years furthering science’s understanding of human evolution).

In Gombe, you can trek up through the rainforest and sit and watch chimpanzees and their social activities for an hour. There are other primates here too, including the bush baby, patas, and vervet monkeys.

You can also take part in a chimpanzee habituation experience on Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria.

Other primates in the country include baboons and blue monkeys, which can be found in Gombe and the Mahale mountains. The colobus monkey can be found in the Serengeti by the Grumeti river.

There are some rare monkeys in Udzungwa Mountains National Park, including the Sanje mangabey and Udzangwa red colobus.Wildlife in Tanzania

A chimp watching on in the lush forest

Marine Life

In the seas around Tanzania and the Zanzibar archipelago, you can see dolphins and whale sharks. If you are lucky, you may see humpback whales from Saadani National Park in Zanzibar.

Green turtles also breed at Saadani National Park and on Mnemba and Pemba Island. Zanzibar is one of the world’s most popular scuba diving destinations due to its diversity of life, clarity of water, and healthy coral reefs.

As well as marine life, Tanzania has a number of large lakes that are protected, allowing for populations of fish to thrive. Lake Tanganyika holds over 1,000 species of fish. Due to its age and isolation, the lake is a hotspot for biodiversity, and is most famous for its cichlids. Likewise, Rubando Island National Park is a protected breeding ground for tilapia and the Nile Perch. 
Wildlife in Tanzania

Peeking out to say hello to passing snorkelers

Best time to visit for wildlife sightings

The long dry season in Tanzania runs from June to October. During these months, the grasses are short, which means the animals are easier to spot.

If you visit during the rainy season (November to May)

Visiting during the wet seasons (October to December, and March to May) means you’ll benefit from beautiful scenery and cheaper rates at accommodation, but wildlife sightings aren’t as good and activities can be cancelled last minute due to sudden, heavy rains. TANZANIA MONTH BY Month Home of the African Elephant, Amboseli National Park

Uganda Visa & Entry Requirements

Navigating Uganda’s Red Tape: Visa & Entry Requirements like passport, COVID-19, customs, and pets.

Updated June 30, 2021

Visa & Entry Requirements into Uganda have not changed much for the last decade, but now we’ve been forced to change the way we travel to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and yet enjoy our destinations with confidence.

We all want to get out there alive a bit, get wild and stretch our minds. An African savanna is a great place for that. Open wide spaces, clean air, new cultures, and quiet noise. All we needed before the Covid pandemic hit us was a passport, a visa, an air ticket, and a few bucks

A few star gazing nights under the African sky are suitable for everyone. Now, you will have to tolerate a couple of things to have a marvelous safari trip to Uganda, like many other destinations are doing it. To keep you and everyone, including the animals, protected.

Borders remain open to tourists, cargo crew, Ugandans, foreign residents, and passengers in transit either by land or air.

Immigration Department (June 23, 2021)

Uganda Visa Requirements

Nationals of most countries require a visa to enter Uganda. The Uganda visa is applied for and paid in advance electronically online https://visas.immigration.go.ug/ (to reduce human contact during your safari trip) or at any Ugandan embassy or high commission abroad. Still, usually, it’s simpler to buy the visa upon arrival. On arrival is a straightforward procedure that takes a few minutes at Entebbe International Airport or any overland border.

Though some queuing and social distancing are inevitably involved, most people will still find it more convenient, not to mention cheaper, than traveling twice into the middle of London (for example) to submit and later collect their visas.

Only travellers with approved visas having applied online will be granted entry into the country.

Visa rulings are prone to change, so all visitors must check the current situation with their travel agent or a Ugandan diplomatic mission before they travel.

The following are the requirements for Uganda visa entry:

  • You must have a valid passport issued by your government. Your passport must be valid past the date of your expected departure from Uganda (6 months)
  • Green card holders must provide a copy of their green card
  • Duly filled Visa Application Form
  • You must have an international Inoculation Certificate against Yellow Fever.
  • You must obtain a Uganda Government VISA before entry into Uganda.
  • It mandatory to have the following to obtain a Uganda Government VISA:
    (a). Application forms are available online. Visa Application Form
    (b). Submit your passport and one (1) recent passport–size photograph.
    (c). Pay applicable Fees below, by money order or (cashier’s cheque) only.
    (d). In a secure envelope, enclose your passport, the one photographs, the money order (or cashier cheque) to Uganda Mission.
    (e). * Allow five (5) working days for your visa application to be processed for an application submitted by mail or in person.
  • Applications for Visas may be submitted by mail, in person, or by E-visa. Applications by post must be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed USPSExpress Overnight envelope only for shipping your document(s) back to you.
    Any other courier service with traceable delivery methods like FedEx and DHL is recommended.
  • Visa applications should be submitted one month before travel, at the earliest, and not later than four days before travel.
  • Correct visa fee ( USD 50 for single entry visa). All travelers should pay visa fees online.
  • Letter of invitation/introduction, if traveling on business.
  • Applicants may be requested to submit additional supporting documentation.

For more information on Visa Requirements, visit the official Uganda Immigration page.

List of countries whose national do not require to pay for a visa to enter Uganda includes Angola, Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Burundi, Comoros, Cyprus, Eritrea, Fiji, Gambia, Grenada, Italy (Diplomatic Passport holders only), Jamaica, Ireland, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tonga, Vanuatu, Zambia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

Valid Passport

Check well in advance that you have a valid passport and that it won’t expire within six months of the date you intend to leave Uganda. Should your passport be lost or stolen, it will generally be easier to get a replacement if you have a photocopy of the important pages.

Yellow Fever Vaccination Card

You will be asked at the border or international airport for an international health certificate showing you’ve had a yellow fever shot.

Cost of a Uganda Visa

A standard Uganda single-entry visa, valid for three months, costs USD 50. Student visas cost USD 20. Multiple-entry visa valid for 12 months, costs USD 100, 24 months visa costs USD 150, and 24-36-months visa costs USD 200.

Travelers with a single-entry visa intending to leave and return to Uganda (e.g., to trekking gorillas in Rwanda or visiting nearby Kenya) may find it more useful to apply for an East African Visa (cross-border joint visa)

The East African visa allows entry into all three countries (Kenya, Uganda & Rwanda) on a single visa which costs USD 100.

If, however, you intend to spend less than seven days in Uganda before leaving again, you can purchase an inland transit visa for only USD 15.

Woman Planning a Uganda Safari Trip in 10 Easy Steps - Uganda Visa & Entry Requirements

Uganda Visa Extension

Immigration authorities now generally only stamp your passport for a maximum of one month upon arrival. Immigration can extend your visa without charge to three months at any immigration office. You’ll be charged USD 100 per day if you overstay your visa.

In Kampala, you may be asked to provide an official letter from a sponsor or the hotel where you are staying. In Jinja and Mbarara, recent reports suggest you are more likely to have your stay extended to three months without any paperwork.

Uganda Covid-19 Entry Requirements

The international airport and borders of Uganda have stayed open since October 1, 2020. All travelers have to to fulfill the following entry COVID-19 travel requirements to get through Uganda’s international borders.

  • All persons traveling through the airport shall, in addition to security requirements, wear the Ministry of Health (MOH) approved Face Masks, go through Thermal Screening, handwashing, and/or sanitize(hand/body).
  • All arriving passengers from category 1 & 2 countries will be subjected to a PCR COVID-19 test at all points of entry including Entebbe International Airport. Category 1—includes India. Category 2—includes the USA, UK, UAE, Turkey, South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, and Tanzania.
  • Travelers of countries in category 3—includes all travelers from countries not in categories 1 & 2— will not be subject to PCR tests but shall present an authentic and valid PCR COVID-19 diagnostic test certificate issued 72 hours before arriving in Uganda.
  • Individuals from category 2 countries who have received full COVID-19 vaccinations and have no signs of any infection will be exempted from PCR tests at all immigration entry points in Uganda.
  • Internal flights passengers passing through Entebbe Airport can wizz through the immigration desk with no restrictions.
  • All Passengers who show signs and symptoms of a communicable disease, including COVID-19, shall be isolated and taken for further checks and treatment.
  • All Covid-19 positive testing passengers/ crews shall be isolated and taken to designated treatment centers. Established contact persons to the positive passengers shall go for 14 days’ quarantine.
  • Passengers shall proceed to immigration with a valid passport to process a visa.
  • The Uganda government has imposed a night curfew between 10:00 and 05:00 across the country. If you arrive at Entebbe Airport or your outbound flight is within that period of time, make sure you are carrying your valid travel documents to present at any security point, you’ll be allowed through.
Disinfecting your safari hotel room before you use it.

Valid Driving License

If there is any possibility you’ll want to drive or hire a vehicle in Uganda, bring a valid driving license. Your domestic (home country) driving license will suffice for a period of up to three months.

If you intend to drive in Uganda for longer, you can either obtain a Ugandan Driver’s license or (this is far cheaper and simpler) bring an international driving license with your domestic license. Rather than carrying the originals, a photocopy will suffice.

Keeping your documents safe

For security reasons, it’s advisable to detail all your important information on one sheet of paper, photocopy it, and distribute a few copies in your luggage, your money belt, and amongst relatives or friends at home.

The sort of things you want to include are your identification and address details and refund information, travel insurance policy details and 24-hour emergency contact number, passport number, details of relatives or friends to be contacted in an emergency, bank and credit card details, camera and lens serial numbers, etc.

Gorilla trekking adventures with great deals

2021/22 gorilla trekking safaris in uGanda

Entry requirements for pets

Cats and dogs must have a certificate of good health from a registered veterinarian in the area of origin, which must be issued, signed, and stamped no earlier than 10 days before arrival in Uganda. You will also need a certificate confirming the animal is free of rabies and has been inoculated as necessary.

Dogs require vaccinations against distemper, parvo-virus, rabies, hepatitis, and leptospirosis, not less than 30 days before arrival.
Cats should be vaccinated against rabies and feline enteritis, not less than 30 days before arrival.

Uganda Boarder Customs

Uganda border customs allows importing the following items into Uganda without incurring customs duty: 400 cigarettes or 500g of tobacco; one bottle of spirits and wine, 2.5 liters of beer; 1oz bottle of perfume.

Uganda border customs allows exporting souvenirs without restriction. However, game trophies such as tooth, bone, horn, shell, claw, skin, hair, feather, or other durable items are subject to export permits.

If you’re bringing in a drone for safari photography, you must know that the Ministry of Defense watches them closely. Thorugh CAA, you must fulfill a couple of requirements to operate a drone in Uganda.

Onward,

Have someone help you plan your trip to Uganda. Our local tour operator, Azas Safaris Uganda has a dedicated team of local experts that live and have traveled Uganda’s destinations and would give you trusted recommendations, process all your fees, and operate your ground handling. You also get to engage your tour manager all the way through the planning. You don’t have to do the whole planning alone, and you don’t have to deal with third parties to plan a guided tour. An email to verdorosafaris@gmail.com connects you directly to a consultant.

What Makes Uganda a Unique Destination?

What makes Uganda a unique safari destination is that it’s got the cultural richness, all the savannah wild game, the primates in its pristine rain forest jungles (especially the more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas), the avian richness, mountains, and the striking landscapes all packed in its tiny ness.

The destination boasts of harboring an impressive number of vertebrates and other species not anywhere else in East and Southern Africa. Also, the accessibility of its significant forests by comparison to those in west Africa makes it an unbeatable destination for viewing African forest creatures — from mountain gorillas and chimpanzees to a colorful array of butterflies and birds — in their natural habitats.

What most distinguishes Uganda from any other Africa safari destination is simply its relatively high proportion of closed-canopy forest. The dense growth embraces Afro-montane forests such as that found on Mount Elgon, which has strong similarities to similar habitats on Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya, and Semliki National Park—an easterly extension of the lowland rain forest that blankets the Congolese Basin and West Africa.

Here are five things that Uganda a unique safari destination

  1. Unique Game Viewing Safaris
  2. The Best Primate Viewing & Gorilla Trekking Adventures
  3. Striking Landscapes
  4. Easily Accessible Rich Birding Spots
  5. Uganda is Great for Private Safari
Unique wildlife Game Viewing - What Makes Uganda a Unique Destination?

1. Unique Game Viewing Safaris

When it comes to more conventional game viewing, Uganda is not an Africa safari destination to bear comparison with Tanzania or Kenya, or for that matter the majority of countries in southern Africa. It is too small to have any reserves on the grand scale of Tanzania’s Selous or Serengeti, or the Luangwa, Chobe, Hwange, and Kruger national parks further south.

Nevertheless, Uganda’s savanna reserves have gradually recovered from the heavy poaching during the 70s and 80’s civil war and political unrest. Today, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls national parks offer as good a chance of encountering perennial Africa safari favorites such as lion, elephant, buffalo, giraffe, and even leopard as many more celebrated game reserves — with the added bonus of relying on a circuit that also offers some of the best forest primate viewing in Africa.

For leisure travelers on a limited budget, these two parks are also among the most accessible and affordable, comparably worthwhile savanna reserves anywhere in Africa.

On the plus side, the tininess and obscurity from high numbers of tourists make Uganda a unique destination and a magnet to savvy travelers.

gorilla trekking and primate viewing is a unique activity on Uganda safari

2. The Best Primate Viewing & Gorilla Trekking Adventures

Seven out of ten travelers that visit Uganda come to see primates. What makes Uganda a unique destination is that you can easily include a primate excursion on any Uganda safari itinerary. Uganda also offers more profound primate viewing experiences than any other destination in Africa

Uganda’s impressive list of primates includes thirteen diurnal and six nocturnal species, with the highest concentration of primates on the continent. The list includes the mountain gorilla and chimpanzee which take the biggest share of Uganda’s wildlife tourism sources.

Other primates of much interest include the golden monkey, de brazza’s monkey, black and white colobus monkey, red colobus monkey, potto, bushbaby, grey-checked mangabey, l’hoest’s monkey, red-tailed monkey, vervet monkey, patas monkey, baboon, and blue monkey.

The best place to see primates in Uganda is Kibale National Park. Kibale Forest harbors 13 primate species, and the chimpanzee troops get the most attention. From Kanyancu, chimpanzee tracking excursion head out every morning and afternoon for a permit of USD 150 per person. Guests can see other small primates on a nature walk through Bigodi swamps located on the park’s eastern border, along the Kamwenge highway.

Another primate destination in Uganda famous for tourists is Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where guests see habituated mountain gorillas in close proximity. Bwindi offers four trailheads, more than any other gorilla destination, where you can base gorilla trekking excursions. It also offers the unique gorilla habituation experience where travelers can spend more than the regular time with a gorilla family that’s not fully habituated.

Other notable places to see primates in Uganda include Mgahinga National Park (Virunga Mountains), Budongo Forest (Murchison Falls NP), Kyambura Gorge (Queen Elizabeth NP), and Semuliki National Park.

A striking feature of the Ugandan landscape, except for the semi-desert and dry acacia woodland of the far north, is its relatively moist climate.

3. Striking Landscapes

A striking feature of the Ugandan landscape, except for the semi-desert and dry acacia woodland of the far north, is its relatively moist climate. A high precipitation level makes the countryside greener and more fertile than elsewhere in East Africa. At the same time, lakes, rivers, and other wetland habitats account for almost 25% of the country’s surface area.

The most extensive freshwater bodies that lie within Uganda or along its borders are, in descending order, lakes Victoria, Albert, Kyoga, Edward, Kwania and George. Lesser expanses include Lake Wamala near Mityana, lakes Bunyonyi and Mutanda in Kigezi, lakes Bisina and Opeta in the east, and almost 100 small crater lakes dotted around the Rwenzori foothills

Although most of Uganda is topographically relatively undramatic — essentially an undulating plateau perched at altitudes of 1,000-1,200 meters between the eastern and western arms of the Rift Valley — it is bordered by some of the continent’s most impressive mountains. Foremost among these are the Rwenzori Mountains, which follow the Congolese border and are topped by the third-highest point in Africa, the 5,109m Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley.

Other major mountains include Elgon (4,321m) on the Kenyan border, the Virungas on the Rwandan border (with Muhabura at 4,127m the highest of the Ugandan peaks), and Moroto (3,084m), Kadam (3,068m), and Morungole (2,750m) on the Kenyan border north of Elgon.

Rising in solitude from the surrounding plains, these high mountains all support isolated micro-habitats of forest and high grassland. The higher reaches of the Rwenzori, Elgon, and to a lesser extent the Virungas, are covered in Afro-alpine moorland, a fascinating and somewhat other-worldly habitat noted for gigantism among plants such as lobelias, heather, groundsel, as well as habitat-specific creatures such as the dazzling scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird.

The eagerly sought-after shoebill among birders. What Makes Uganda a Unique Destination?
The eagerly sought-after shoebill among birders

4. Easily Accessible Rich Birding Spots

Uganda puts any bird watching enthusiast in the center of an excessive number of bird species, making Uganda a unique destination for keen bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Uganda not only has an unusually high number of bird species recorded within its borders (over 1060) but also offers easy access to several bird-rich habitats that are difficult to reach elsewhere.

Of particular interest to birdwatchers are the half-dozen species associated exclusively with papyrus swamps — most notably the exquisite papyrus gonolek and eagerly sought-after shoebill, the latter seen more easily in Uganda than anywhere else.

The rainforests of western Uganda must be seen as the country’s most important bird habitats and of most significant interest to birdwatchers, mainly if they are already reasonably familiar with typical east African birds. The most alluring forest in terms of localized species is probably Semliki, closely rivaled by BudongoKibale, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

However, in practical terms, Kibale Forest is probably Uganda’s best single stop for forest birds because of the guides who take tourists into the forest and the nearby Magombe Swamp—located in Bigodi wetland right outside Kibale National Park.

That said, just about any forest in Uganda will be a rewarding birding spot; even the relatively tame botanical garden in Entebbe will throw up several interesting species. You would probably identify more bird species in ten minutes walk in the suburbs of Entebbe than you would in an afternoon walking through the Semliki Forest.

Uganda is good for private safaris
Private Getaway

5. Uganda is Great for Private Safari

What makes Uganda a unique destination to a savvy traveler is that its tourist numbers are still small and tolerable compared to its famous giant safari neighbors. There’s a high chance that you could be the only tourist at a safari camp or taking a game drive in the entire national park.

The few travelers you’ll find on safari make Uganda seem like a giant private reserve, making private safari an affordable indulgence for a common traveler.

Most Uganda safari trips out of Entebbe are privately organized by tour operators, offering travelers a bundle of choices to customize a trip itinerary to their travel styles. It most Uganda, out of most African destinations, that offers this unique type of safari planning. Operators offer few group trips.

Ready to Book Your Unique Uganda Safari?

Let’s help you connect with a trusted local safari operator in Uganda that will understand your travel lust and match it with service provision. Uganda is a unique destination and requires a unique approach to planning a successful holiday journey. When you send us an email at verdorosafaris@gmail.com, a selected safari operator will answer your email and kick off the planning process immediately. Go on, try it!

Ssese Islands

Introduction to the Ssese Islands

If you are looking for somewhere to unwind, the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria’s northwestern corner are the perfect retreat.

Ssese’s flourishing archipelago of 84 islands comprises white sandy beaches, clear waters, and tropical forests.

The islands are home to many primate species including colobus and vervet monkeys, sitatunga antelope and several rare birds.

The inhabited islands each have something unique to offer. From landscapes to activities, Ssese is very diverse. 

Ssese Islands

The Islands

Buggala is the largest and most developed island for tourism. Swimming is a popular activity here, especially at Mutambala beach. You can also hire bicycles or quad bikes to explore the island. 

The privately-owned Banda Island is tranquil and serenely beautiful. Bring a good book, as the best thing to do here is read and soak up the sun.

If you do fancy venturing onto the lake, canoes can be hired, or you can go fishing for tilapia and Nile perch.

For animal lovers, Ngamba islandalso known as chimp island, is a chimpanzee sanctuary, set up by the Jane Goodall Foundation. 

Bulago Island is excellent for nature walks, the diverse terrain of rocky outcrops and woodlands means there are several trails to choose from and good opportunities to see uncommon birds and wildlife

Ssese Islands

Things to do

Swimming

The clear cool water is perfect for a hot afternoon swim. Mutumbala beach on the Buggala Island is the most popular spot from which to swim, but it’s likely that your accommodation will also have designated areas for swimming.

In the Ssese Islands, there are no hippos, and crocodiles are extremely unusual. Be aware that Bilharzia, while very rare these days, is thought to be present in the lake so many choose to swim in the hotel pools instead. Ssese Islands

Clear and cool waters are perfect for swimming.

Fishing

Fishing in Uganda is becoming an increasingly popular excursion and the Ssese Islands are a fantastic fishing spot for tilapia and Lake Victoria’s largest fish, the Nile Perch. 

For fishing on Lake Victoria, a UWA fishing permit is not required, but you must go with a licensed boat operator, registered by the Ministry of Fisheries. If you book with us, this will all be arranged for you. 

Fishing equipment can be hired, or you can bring your own. 

Ssese Islands

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Home to over 50 rescued and orphaned chimpanzees, Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary is now a primate’s paradise and an important conservation project thanks to the Jane Goodall Foundation.

Many of the chimpanzees were rescued from poachers and are unlikely to survive reintroduction to the wild.

Under the protection of the sanctuary, they now spend their time swinging from the rainforest trees that cover the island.

The sanctuary allows guests to spend quality time playing with and feeding the chimpanzees, a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else in Uganda. 

Wildlife Viewing

The Ssese Islands are home to many primates including Vervet and Colobus Monkeys.

Crocodiles occasionally visit the more remote islands and hippos can be sighed near Buggala’s southwestern shore.

The elusive sitatunga love to hide in the marshy banks of the lake, and are best seen while taking an early evening canoe ride.Ssese Islands

Despite their name, Blue monkeys are mainly olive or grey.

Quad Biking

For those feeling adventurous, quad biking is a great way to get to know the islands.

The quad bike’s ability to cover all terrains means you can drive along the rocky cliff tops and sandy beaches, through the forest and stop by one of the local fishing villages for lunch and a chance to learn about the local culture.

Previous experience of quad biking is not required, and if you need, you can practice before heading onto more difficult terrain. Ssese Islands

Hire a quad bike for the day and explore jinja on four wheels.

Places to Stay

The hotels and lodges within the Ssese Islands are comprised of budget and mid-range choices. There are no luxury options just yet.

However, the current choices will not leave you feeling disappointed. All the hotels and lodges offer uninterrupted views and access to the lake.

The mid-range options include bandas, cottages and self-contained rooms, while the budget accommodations include several campsites and a dormitory on Banda Island.  
The Ssese Islands, Lake Victoria.

The Ssese Islands are an inland tropical paradise.

Mirembe Beach Resort

Mirembe(meaning peace in Luganda), is a beach-front resort with 30 private guest rooms and suites, which are perfectly secluded under the canopy of trees.

The resort is situated on Buggala Island near Kalangala. The rooms are basic, but stylish and Wi-Fi is included.

The restaurant serves a blend of local and international food and drinks, which can be enjoyed while sitting round the campfire or at a table directly overlooking the lake.

Mirembe also has a camping ground for those looking for a low-budget alternative. The campsite has access to the hotel’s facilities and amenities. 

Ssese Islands

Brovad Sands Lodge

Located on Buggala Island, Brovad Sands Lodge is the closest to pure luxury you will get while staying in the Ssese Islands.

With beach front access, a spa, sauna and swimming pool, there are several ways to unwind.

For accommodation guests can choose between large suites, cottages or a family villa.

Free Wi-Fi, restaurant, lounge and bar and the many activities on offer has made Brovad Sands Lodge one of the most popular options in the Ssese Islands. 

Ssese Islands

Ssese Island Beach Hotel

Situated in Lutoboka Bay, just five minutes from where the ferry docks from Entebbe, Ssese Island Beach Hotel is another great option for activities

An on-site golf course, banana boating, quad biking, canoe rides, nature walks, and cultural visits will keep you busy, or opt to lounge all day by the cool waters on a sun bed.

There are several suites to choose from, which have views of the lake, forest or golf course. There is also a restaurant serving an à la carte menu, a bar and a campfire area. 

Ssese Islands

How to get to the Ssese Islands

From Kampala or Entebbe to Kalangala Bay in the Ssese Islands, a large modern car ferry departs from Nakiwogo Dock, just south of Entebbe at 2pm every day.

The ferry returns to Nakiwogo Dock (Entebbe) from Kalangala Bay at 8am every day.

The journey is approximately three and a half hours. First and second class tickets are available. The only difference is that the first class is likely to be less busy.

A speed boat can be arranged to transport you to Bulago Island, and an airstrip is currently being built on the island.

Other Islands will be connected by lake taxis (large wooden boats) and private boats.

Ssese Islands

When to visit the Ssese Islands

The best time to visit the Ssese Islands is during the cooler dry seasons from late June to October

During these months, there is a smaller chance of rain ruining planned activities, and wildlife viewing opportunities are better as the animals congregate around central water sources.

Ssese Islands

Why you should visit Entebbe.

What are the top things to do in Entebbe town? Most Ugandans only go to Entebbe when visiting one of the beaches or on their way out of the country through the only international airport. This shouldn’t be the case because Entebbe town has so much to offer. Entebbe is one of the most naturally beautiful towns in Uganda. It is part of Wakiso District and is found 40 kilometers away from Kampala city. The town is surrounded by Lake Victoria, lush green vegetation and great landscapes giving it a cool temperature and natural charm.

Despite its small size, Entebbe is a key town in Uganda with important historical roles. Entebbe was the administrative capital of Uganda before the role was shifted to Kampala after independence. It is for this reason that the town is relatively well organized and built with great attractions considering its size. Entebbe still hosts the official state house, one of the largest UN logistics bases in the world, government offices and the only international airport.

For anyone visiting Uganda, Entebbe town is a place you must visit or explore in more detail if you have spare time. You can never be bored while in Entebbe. The town offers so many attractions that never bore even those who have lived there for decades. It is a town where you can spot amazing wildlife and visit some of the best beaches and hotels Uganda has to offer. Entebbe is arguably a better place to stay in than Kampala city or Mbarara town for those who want a clean town, cool temperature, clean air, a serene atmosphere and less crimes.

This article can be useful for those visiting Entebbe for the first time or those who have missed their flight and still have a day or two in the town with nothing to do. You might be interested in  a similar article covering cultural tourism in Uganda as a country or car rental services in Entebbe. By the time you complete reading, you will have an idea of the best places to visit while in Entebbe. You will be surprised to find places you never knew existed.

We hope the article will help you know the popular places and plan accordingly. After finishing reading about Entebbe, you can also read our article about the tourist attractions in Mombasa Kenya. We have an amazing 1 day Kampala city tour package for those who want to visit the key landmarks in Uganda’s capital. If you are targeting Jinja, check out the Jinja tour package.

Let’s look at key some facts about Entebbe before discussing the major tourist attractions

Facts about Entebbe town

  1. Entebbe is found on the northern section of Lake Victoria – the largest lake in Africa.
  2. Entebbe has a population of about 70,000 people.
  3. In the Luganda language, the word “e tebbe” means to sit on a chair. The town was named Entebbe because it was where the local Baganda chiefs sat to resolve legal cases.
  4. Entebbe has Uganda’s largest and only international airport. Because of that, most visits to Uganda start and end in Entebbe.
  5. Entebbe has the official residence and office of the head of state. It is therefore the main center of power
  6. One of the Tarzan movies was shot at the Entebbe botanical gardens.
  7. Entebbe is one of Uganda’s best birding destinations. The botanical gardens and Mabamba swamp are the first places a birder should check out while on a birding tour in Uganda.
  8. Entebbe town has the oldest golf course in Uganda and East Africa. It was established as early as 1900.
  9. Entebbe has some of the most amazing beaches in Uganda and the world when you factor in the amazing Ssese islands.
  10. Entebbe became famous in July 1976 when a team of Israeli commandos stormed the airport and rescued over 100 hostages (mainly Jews) who had been kidnapped while on board an Air France jet. The Ugandan dictator Idi Amin supported the hijackers.
  11. To reach Entebbe town from the airport, you will need to hire an airport taxi for about 20,000 Uganda Shilling. While in town, there are three modes of transport – by boda boda, special hire or public minibuses.
  12. Getting decent accommodation in Entebbe for long term use is not easy and can be quiet expensive. This is partly because of the large UN personnel living and working in the town.

Best Things to do in Entebbe town

Visit Lake Victoria: Lake Victoria is the largest fresh water lake in Africa. It is also the second largest in the world after only Lake Baikal in Siberia. The lake is one of the leading tourist sites in Uganda and Entebbe is arguably the best place to explore it. Lake Victoria surrounds the town on almost all sides. There are several activities that can be done around the lake including swimming, fishing, boat cruises, canoeing, island hopping or simply relaxing by the lake shores.

Visit the beaches: As a town surrounded by water, Entebbe has arguably the best and most popular beaches in Uganda. Some of the beaches include white sand beach, Sports beach, Lido beach, Aero beach, Imperial resort beach and Spena beach among many others.

The hotels and resorts in Entebbe also have their own beaches like Anderita and Botanical beach hotels. On weekend, these beaches are full of revelers from Kampala and other nearby towns. Almost all the beaches have loud music playing in the background while some organize boat cruises on the lake in different shifts for revelers.

Swimming in these beaches is not 100% safe (because of the possibility of catching bilharzia) but it is a great way of mingling with the locals and seeing how they go about their daily lives.

Despite the obvious poverty, Ugandans love to enjoy life. Ugandan’s are very friendly and you will find this out while visiting one of the beaches. If you are afraid of swimming, you can just go and relax by the beach and swim in one of the high end hotels in town.

Visit the Entebbe Sailing Club or go for a sunset boat cruise: Entebbe has one of the oldest sailing clubs in Uganda. The club is busy over the weekend and you will spot several dhow looking boats floating out into the lake with a number of revelers. The Club organizes sporting competitions to reward the fastest boats.

Entebbe Sailing club is a perfect place to go with your friends or family for a truly amazing weekend. Sunset boat cruises are also organized with food and drinks starting from the Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre all the way to some of the Ssese Islands.

Activities in Entebbe town

Visit Entebbe International Airport: Entebbe town is host to the only international airport in Uganda. The airport is built close to the shores of Lake Victoria and is about 25 miles away from Kampala city. Entebbe international airport is also host to one of the largest UN logistics bases in the world.

You can find several UN and other humanitarian aircraft stationed here and ready for missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and South Sudan.

best things to do in Entebbe

Visit the UN Base in Entebbe: As mentioned earlier, the United Nations uses the old Entebbe international airport for keeping some of their heavy military and humanitarian equipment before being taken for use in peacekeeping missions around Africa.

Visiting their offices is not easy without appointment. Security is tight because they have their own customs and immigration procedures. Easiest way to visit is to befriend one of their staff in the town bars or hangout places and request for a tour of the site. You might have interest in our article about the things to do in Dar es Salaam.

Visiting Entebbe town

Visit the Entebbe Botanical Gardens: These gardens were founded around 1901. It is believed that one of the original Tarzan movies were filmed here. The gardens are a popular hangout place for locals and tourists who want a quiet place for relaxation and experiencing nature. In terms of biodiversity, it is one of the best within central Uganda.

The Entebbe Botanical gardens are considered important learning centers by academics within and outside Uganda. You can visit the center for plant identification and birding. Expect to also spot Colobus and Ververt monkeys. The gardens are also home to several species of birds and if you are a birder, this is the perfect place to start from.

places to visit in Entebbe Uganda

If you are planning to visit the gardens, expect to find Guides at the entrance. There is an entrance fee but the Guides will ask for a separate fee. The Guides know all the tree, bird and animal species. They will take you to the different zones of the gardens ending with a visit to the beach on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The species of birds to look out for are African Open-billed Stork, Black headed Gonolek, Black-headed herons, Common Squacco, Grey headed gull, Hammerkop, Long tailed Cormorant, Orange weavers, Red- chested Sunbird, Swamp Flycatcher, Verreaux’s eagle owls, Yellow billed duck, Giant and Pied Kingfishers. It is recommended that you visit these gardens on week days to enjoy a more private tour.

Visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Center: Popularly known as Entebbe zoo, this facility has become one of the best educational centers for wildlife in the African continent. The center was opened in 1952 for rescued animals before later turning into a zoo. The Centre still helps rehabilitate animals rescued from poachers before their release back to the wild when possible. The Centre has an amazing collection of wildlife and beautiful scenery.

It is a quick place to go if you cannot visit Uganda’s national parks. Here you will see DeBraza monkeys, baboons, hyenas, pythons, lions, ostriches, antelopes, leopards, buffaloes and chimpanzee among many other creatures. Over 121 species of birds can be sported at the Centre including the African fish eagle, Hammerkops, sun birds, Giant Kingfishers and the Great Blue

Most of the animals are held in spacious areas which resemble their natural surroundings. You will not only see but learn how the animals communicate, play, eat and live together. The Centre strives to educate visitors about wildlife conservation and their importance to prosperity and the ecosystem. After seeing all the animals in the zoo for about 2 hours, you can go down to the beach and take a swim or relax with the family as you enjoy camel and donkey rides.

Visit Entebbe Uganda

As already noted earlier, the Uganda Wildlife Education Center is one of the most visited places in Uganda and is a favorite learning place for schools and other educational institutions. The Centre receives generous funding from donors and institutions around the world enabling it to expand and put together an excellent team of caretakers.

Visiting the center costs $15 for international visitors and about 10,000 for Ugandans. For those interested in a more comprehensive visit, they can opt for the Keeper for a Day Experience, the behind the Scenes Tour and the Chimpanzee Close-up experience. Tour operators in Uganda can organize trips to the Entebbe zoo but at an extra cost. We have a new article about the things to see in Nairobi that you might find interesting.

The Reptile Sanctuary: Visiting the Uganda Reptiles Village is excellent for those who are fascinated with reptiles. The sanctuary takes care of all kinds of reptiles including crocodiles, turtles, tortoises, lizards, chameleons and snakes (vipers, cobras, mambas and puff adders).

Most of these reptiles where rescued and rehabilitated after being found in people’s homes and gardens. After the Centre receives a call from someone about spotting a reptile in their compound, they send staff to go and pick them up. When their numbers increase, some are released back into the wild.

The staff at the sanctuary will help educate you about these often misunderstood creatures. The Reptiles village is located a short drive away from the town. You stop at a small town called Abaita-ababiri as you head towards Kampala. From Abaita, you leave the main highway and follow the 4km dusty road to the Reptile village. Entrance to the Reptile sanctuary is 15,000 Uganda Shillings at the time of writing this article. The Entrance fee includes a Guide to take you around the site.

Visit the Uganda Virus Research Institute: If you are an academic spending time in Entebbe, a good place to visit is the Uganda Virus Research Institute. This is a government institute that was built to help in researching about communicable diseases among animals and humans. The Uganda Virus Research institute is a leading Centre for research in East African and has been responsible for some amazing findings in the area of communicable diseases. It houses some of the brightest minds in Uganda as well as international researchers from all over the world on short assignments.

attractions in Entebbe

Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary: This sanctuary is home to more than 40 orphaned chimpanzees that have been rescued from within and outside Uganda. The young chimps are brought at the Centre for rehabilitation and to start a new life in a beautifully forested island. Here they are looked after by some of the best caretakers and researchers. To reach the Ngamba island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, one would need to take a boat or public ferry to the island.

Once in the island you have an opportunity to observe the chimps feeding from an enclosure before retreating back to the large forest. Visitors to the island can also feed the chimps or volunteer for a while in the facility. There are flights arranged from Entebbe International Airport to the sanctuary at a cost.

State House Entebbe: Uganda has two main state house buildings. One in Entebbe and the other in Nakasero. Although visiting is only by invitation, you can still take a walk around the structure to admire the beautiful gardens. If you are lucky you will spot the presidential convoy entering and departing from the man gate.

Things to see in Entebbe

Entebbe Golf Club: This 18 Hole Golf Course is the oldest in Uganda. It was founded as early as 1901 close to the shores of Lake Victoria. It is a large golf course that offers a unique feeling of privacy and serenity even on busy weekends.

This gold course remains green throughout the year because of the cool weather from the lake and good rains throughout the year. At the entrance, you may see a sign post stating that playing is for only members but tourists are allowed in at an affordable fee.

Golfing is now becoming very popular among the middle class in Uganda and has received wide media coverage. Because of that, you will meet some of Uganda’s top businessmen and the middle-class citizens playing side by side. You can learn a lot about Uganda, the politics and opportunities available while playing and hanging out at the club. Apart from the golf course, the club also has a basketball court, a cricket oval and a basketball court. Members can also play snooker, darts and badminton.

Tourist attractions in Entebbe Uganda

Visit Entebbe’s main Markets: The best way to learn about a new place and the local people is to visit the main markets. Entebbe has two main markets. One is close to the first shell petrol station from the Kampala side and the other is in Kitoro.

There are also smaller markets opened on specific days of the week such as the one close to Manyago. I shouldn’t forget to mention the Nakiwogo Market.

The Nakiwogo market is a beehive of activity and the best place to watch vendors sell off their products or offload goods from the different Ssese Islands. While in all Entebbe markets, you can buy Uganda’s tasty tropical fruits and foods from a kiosk. If you have nothing to buy, you can just choose a place to sit and observe the local Ugandans hustling to make ends meet. You might even get a chance to hear some of the most current gossip.

Explore Kitubulu Forest and Beach: This forest and beach are located just as you enter Entebbe town from Kampala and start getting a clear view of the lake. Kitubulu forest is perfect for nature walks that end at the beach or Lake shores. Entrance is free but be cautious while there. Avoid taking forest walks late in the evening or in the night. The beach is open to the public at no cost but security is non-existent hence you could be prone to pick pockets.

Entebbe town Uganda

Visit Zika Forest: This is the forest where the Zika Virus was first discovered by scientists in 1947. This strain is different from the one that troubles certain parts of the world recently.

In fact, to be clear, there is no strain of the Zika Virus in the forest these days. A group of researchers are currently studying the insects trapped in the forest to come up with groundbreaking findings that will be of benefit to the world. Zika forest is a favorite for birders and those who just want to explore a tropical forest within reach. Expect to spot monkeys, birds and countless butterflies.

Nkumba University: Nkumba university is a private university founded in 1994. It started as an institution specializing in promoting business management but has now grown to also offer science based courses. Unlike many private universities in Uganda, it is not affiliated to any particular religious’/Christian organization. The University is built on Nkumbi Hill which is 10 kilometers away from the Entebbe airport in the District of Wakiso. The University compound spreads all the way to the shores of Lake Victoria.

Entebbe Town

Mabamba Swamp: Mabamba bay wetland is found along the shores of Lake Victoria. This extensive marshland covers an area of 16,498 hectares and consists of mainly of Miscunthus sp along the main bay and papyrus towards the clearer waters of Lake Victoria.

A narrow water channel extends inside the swamp allowing for birders to visit the inside by boat. The most popular bird species sighted here is the amazing shoebill stork. The Mabamba wetlands sanctuary is considered the best place to spot Shoebill storks in Uganda. These elusive birds are often found standing on drifting papyrus islands as they fed on insects and frogs. Apart from the Shoebill storks and other birds, swamp antelopes (Sitatunga) thrive on these swamps.

places to visit in Entebbe

Sport Fishing on Lake Victoria: Uganda is home to the largest fresh water fish in Africa – the Nile Perch. Entebbe provides one of the best and most organized fishing areas in Uganda.

You can hire a boat and go out with your equipment for an adventure of a lifetime with the possibility of a big catch to show your buddies and fellow anglers. Some of the hotels and resorts can help you acquire fishing gear and a professional angler to take you to the best fishing spots while on a whole day sport fishing trip in Uganda.

Visit the Ssese Islands: The Ssese Islands are a collection of 84 Islands in Lake Victoria. Only 43 have constant human presence. All the islands offer pristine tropical vegetation with amazing wildlife. The Ssese Islands offer some of the best fishing spots in Uganda.

So prepare for a whole day of fun, fishing, swimming, canoeing, quad biking and even horseback riding in some of the islands. Visiting the Ssese Islands should be done in three days to experience the best of what the Islands have to offer.

Go shopping: Entebbe is a major shopping Centre with large supermarkets like Victoria shopping mall, Imperial Mall, Pearl Supermarket, Shoprite and many other smaller one built within the magnificent hotels and resorts. All these shopping malls have ATM Machines which accept Visa and MasterCard. The banks with branches in Entebbe town include Stanbic, Ecobank, Diamond Trust bank and Standard chartered.

The Entebbe Craft Village: This Craft village was built in 2002 and is believed to be one of the largest in Uganda. While visiting the craft village, you can buy wood carvings, bags, African fabrics, sandals, paintings, batiks, place mats, tableware, clothing’s, ornaments and jewelry. You can also buy the fabric and have it made and adjusted to your size if you are staying in town for a while.

Top things to do in Entebbe

Eat Out: If you want to taste some of Uganda’s local dishes as well as international ones, then you should check out 4 Points for their calming environment and Indian food.

They even have a pool table and bar that is frequented by Entebbe’s expert community. Gately Inn Entebbe is one good open-air restaurant with beautiful gardens and all kinds of international dishes. For the best pizza, visit Bologna or hotel Anderita. Other pizza points include Arthur’s Café, Goretti’s Pizza.

We can’t forget to mention Faze 3 for Indian and continental food. Faze 3 is built close to the airport and has some of the tastiest fried pork, chicken and tilapia.

Go Drinking and Clubbing: To find out about Entebbe’s night life and sample some of the local beer, you should start with 4 Turkeys Pub located along Kampala road. They have international beer brands in stock like Guinness and Heineken. Red Rooster Sports Bar is a favorite of UN Personnel and hence security is tight.

You will find a pool table and giant TV screens to watch your favorite sports teams over the weekend in all the bars.  If the two are not to your taste, you can visit O’s Bar located close to the golf course with its indoor lounge and large television screens. Club Knight Riders is arguably the most popular dance club in Entebbe.