The best time to visit Uganda

June, July, August and September are the best time to visit Uganda. These peak months are generally dry (although rain can fall at any time). Book well in advance if tracking gorillas, as permits sell out months in advance. Really, though, this is a year-round destination. Uganda sits squarely on the equator so there are no true seasons, plus an average altitude of around 1,000m tempers the heat. March-May and October-November see the highest rainfall, but gorillas are still lurking in the mist – although trekking to find them will be slippery and slower. Accommodation and gorilla permits can be much cheaper at this time.

visit Uganda
A mountain gorilla feeding

VISIT UGANDA MONTH BY MONTH

  • March, April and May see the heaviest rainfall in Uganda, with shorter rains in October to November. This doesn’t affect your chances of spotting gorillas, although be prepared for a soggy, slippery trek! Waterproofs, and waterproof boots, are essential. It’s also believed that the gorillas linger on the warmer, lower slopes during wetter weather, so your trek may be shorter.
  • The wildlife is not migratory in Uganda so you can still see plenty of game in parks such as Queen Elizabeth, although thicker vegetation makes spotting the animals a little harder. Do be aware that the already appalling roads will become even more bone shaking.
  • Murchison Falls in the northeast has a drier climate, so is a good place to head during the wetter months.
  • The Uganda Wildlife Authority, which issues gorilla tracking permits, offers discounts of up to 25 percent in April, May and November – well worth it if you’re on a budget.
  • June to September are popular months, thanks to dry weather and school holidays. Uganda remains happily oblivious to mass tourism, though, and you won’t need to worry about crowds.
  • December, January and February are also great months to visit. Generally dry (though rains can linger into December), the wildlife will be lured to waterholes, making this a great time for boat safaris. Migratory birds are also present.
  • Throughout the country, the temperature drops quite considerably at night – you’ll need a jumper or cardi. This makes it much easier to sleep. But it never reaches the chilly extremes of places such as Kruger of the Kalahari.

The New Big Five Animals in Uganda

The “Big Five” are the animal kingdom’s famous celebrities on the African Savana; every tourist hopes to set eyes on these dramatic creatures. Uganda, like many other African safari destinations, hosts the big players and more. That is why we thought we should tell you more about Uganda’s new selection of the big 5 game aniamls.

The ‘Big 5’ was coined by hunting safari explorers, back in the 1800s, based on how challenging to hunt these animals were. But since the big five experience is now all about photographing, viewing, and meeting the wild creatures, Uganda’s new big five list includes the mountain gorilla, lion, chimpanzee, African elephant, and leopard. Our list is based on travelers most south after animals to see on a Uganda safari, challenging to reach and offer memorable photography moments.

In addition to experiencing Uganda’s exquisite cultures, and people, and viewing some of the most stunning landscapes, your trip to Uganda will not richly reward you until you meet these magnificent animals.

The New Big Five Animals in Uganda

  1. Mountain Gorilla
  2. Lion
  3. Chimpanzee
  4. African Elephant
  5. Leopard

1. Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)

a mountain gorilla
A mountain Gorilla resting on a tree

Arguably the most sought-after primate in Africa is the mountain gorilla (King of the rainforest jungle), and Uganda offers the best gorilla viewing experiences worldwide. The gentle giants in Uganda’s southwestern corner are so famous, hundreds of tourists wait up months in advance to spend a moment with these charming beasts. More than 1060 mountain gorillas find sanctuary in the east-central African mountain rainforests, and more than half of them are in Uganda.

Standing upright at 4 to 6 feet, a fully grown mountain gorilla can weigh a whopping 300 to 485 pounds (135 to 220 kilograms). The mountain gorilla unsurprisingly makes the number one on the list of new BIG five animals in Uganda because of its mass, scarcity, and magical moments. Most of all, the gentle giant lives in one of the most biodiverse homes in the world.

To stay warm in the mountains, mountain gorillas have longer hair than their eastern lowland cousins, the Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). They also tend to be a bit larger than other gorillas and have shorter arms.

Gorillas can climb trees but are usually found on the ground in communities of up to 30 individuals. These troops are organized according to fascinating social structures.

One dominant, older adult male leads troops, often called a silverback because of the swath of silver hair that adorns his otherwise dark fur. Troops also include several other young males, some females, and their offspring.

2. African Lion (Panthera leo)

Big five
lion-in-queen-elizabeth-national-park

The most imposing feline on the African savannah now attracts more protection than a pop culture celebrity. The lion is the most sought-after of the new big five animals in Uganda’s wild. It is also considered the most sociable of the large cats, living in loosely structured cat prides of typically five to 15 animals.

This ferocious cat has special cultural significance in Ugandan cultures and enjoys a reputation as the king of the beasts and a symbol of royalty, strength, and bravery.

In Uganda, you can find lions in mainly three of the largest savanna parks: Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP), and Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP).

In QENP’s southern section, the Ishasha lions show off their unique behavior of climbing trees, and travelers have branded them the “Ishasha tree-climbing lions.” Tourists flock to this sector to marvel at this rare behavior of wild cats.

Unfortunately for the lions in this section of Uganda have faced gruesome wildlife atrocities on two occasions in the last decade; once in April 2011 (poachers poisoned 11 lions) and recently in April 2021 (6 poisoned and dismembered). The worst threat still facing those magnificent lions in Uganda is poaching.

3. Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes)

Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda
Chimpanzees in Kibale National Park

7 out of 10 tourists visiting Uganda’s rainforest parks will say they had to come and see our playful primate cousins in their natural cradle. The chimpanzee’s celebrity status among travelers earns it a great position on Uganda’s new BIG five Animals lists.

The common Chimpanzee is a distinctive black-coated ape that’s more closely related to man than any other living creature. Along with bonobos, they are our closest living relatives, sharing 98.7 percent of our genetic blueprint. Science research has consistently shown that humans and chimps share a common ancestor who lived some seven to 13 million years ago.

The Chimpanzee lives in large, loosely bonded communities based around a core of related males with an internal hierarchy topped by an alpha male. Females are generally less strongly bonded to their core group than are males; emigration between communities is not unusual.

Mother—child bonds are strong. Daughters normally leave their mother only after they reach maturity, at which point they break their relations. Mother—son relations have been known to survive for over 40 years. A troop has a well-defined core territory which is fiercely defended by regular boundary patrols.

Chimpanzees are primarily frugivorous (fruit-eating), but they eat meat and even hunt on occasion — they’ve regularly hunted red colobus monkeys in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream and Mahale Mountains national parks. Simultaneously, researchers in Kalinzu Forest in Uganda have observed chimps eating blue and red-tailed monkeys, and unsuccessful attempts to hunt black-and-white colobus.

Chimpanzees are among the most intelligent of Uganda’s new BIG five animals. These guys have been observed regularly using tools like modified sticks to ‘fish’ in termite mounds. Scientists have also observed chimps cracking nuts open using a stone and anvil.

In language studies in the USA, researchers have taught chimps to communicate in American sign language. They have demonstrated their understanding, in some instances, by even creating compound words for new objects (such as rock-berry to describe a nut).

Uganda hosts more than 4900 chimps within its national park, making it a top destination for primate viewing. Kibale National Park, in western Uganda, offers the best chimpanzee viewing (in their natural habitat) opportunities in the world, with over 1500 chimps swinging the park’s tree-tops.

Kibale also has the highest density of primates on the continent, with researchers recording 13 primate species within the park. Much work has gone into habituating chimpanzee troops for tourism in Kibale Forest, so seeing our primate cousins in the park is highly guaranteed.

You can also see chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge found in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semliki Wildlife Reserve, and the Budongo and Kanyiyo Pabidi forests near Murchison Falls National Park.

4. African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

African Elephant
An African Elephant in Queen Elizabeth National Park

African Elephant is the world’s largest of all Uganda’s new BIG five animals and perhaps the most enduring symbol of nature’s grace and fragility. The elephant is also one of the most intelligent and entertaining to watch on a classic Uganda safari game drive.

A fully-grown male elephant can weigh a whopping 13,889 lbs (6300 kilos). Even the smallest adult male rarely dips below 4000 kilos, which is way more than twice the weight on an average family SUV. Females are usually just over half the weight of the male.

The size difference between the two is not as surprising as when it comes to height – the tallest males are 4 meters tall, the tallest female rises to 3.4 meters. Apart from overall size, unless the male is sexually aroused, the most obvious difference between males and females is that females have an angular forehead. In contrast, a bull’s forehead is more rounded.

There’s more: an African elephant has the giant brain of any mammal alive; it can weigh up to 6 kilos. Its trunk, which serves an elephant like a hand, can be 2 meters long and weigh over 130 kilos – a trunk has no bones but may have 60,000 muscles in it. An elephant uses its tusks as both tools and weapons. The longest recorded tusks were 3.17m long, while the heaviest reached 70kg.

There are two subspecies of the African elephant – the forest and the savannah elephant. You may be lucky to see the smaller and slightly hairier forest elephant in Kibale and Bwindi’s equatorial forests. The savannah elephant dwells throughout the grassy plains and bushlands of Uganda’s massive savannah parks. The two races are thought to interbreed in parts of western Uganda.

5. Leopard (Panthera pardus)

A leopard lying on a tree branch
A leopard lying on a tree branch

This is the most elusive of Uganda’s BIG 5 animals. Leopards in Uganda are sneaky and harder to spot. Naturally shy and exclusively nocturnal, leopards spend the daylight hours hidden from view. These solitary felines are impressive to watch when hauling large kills, such as zebra or antelope, into a tree to eat alone, in peace.

Leopards can be distinguished from cheetahs by their rosette-shaped spots and more robust build and their preference for wooded or rocky habitats. They are found in virtually all habitats which offer adequate cover and are present in most Ugandan national parks and forest reserves.

Its capacity for adapting to changes in prey species, hunting conditions, carnivore competition, vegetation patterns, and human activities enables it to survive in developing Africa with more success than almost any other large wild animal. It can even persist in more or less advanced agricultural areas, though often in significantly reduced numbers.

A leopard differs from other new BIG five animals because of locals reporting them outside protected areas. They hunt using stealth and power, often getting to within 5 meters of their intended prey before pouncing, and they habitually store their kill in a tree to keep it from being poached by other large predators.

Meanwhile, together with the poaching, it has induced, the international fur trade has depressed leopard populations in several parts of Uganda. We do not have any reasonable measure of population numbers anywhere for this species. However, we do have sightings from rangers collected while they are on patrol in the protected areas managed by UWA.

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda is the most popular tourist activity done in both countries. It is also referred to as Gorilla trekking and it is where the ranger guides try to find the given habituated gorilla group for the clients on their trekking date. The clients will be divided into a group of 8 people in the morning to be assigned to a specific Gorilla group or Gorilla family and escorted at exactly 8:00am by ranger guides into the forest to search for the rare Mountain Gorillas. It might take you 2-6 hours while in the forest depending on the time and the place where you will find the Mountain Gorillas. Upon finding the Gorillas, clients will spend only one (1) hour of interacting with these lovely primates. You will learn the Gorillas behavior, how they feed, and play, couple and how they associate with each other then you will realize that these are closest creatures to human beings.

Gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda
Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda

Gorilla tracking tours is for everyone in the world apart from children below 15 years old and if you realize that you cannot walk into the forest then there are porters who can carry you to and from the forest using the stretchers. You have to agree the price for being carried on the stretcher with the porters and our safari guide will help you out.

The rare Mountain gorilla’s family or group is led by the Silverback which is the male Gorilla and it weighs over 200kgs.

The Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has over 20 Gorilla families but only 19 Gorilla groups are available for clients to track. The Gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park include; Katwe, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Mubare group in Buhoma sector. Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro and Mukiza group in Ruhija sector. Nkuringo, Bushaho and Christmas family in Nkuringo sector. Mishaya, Kahungye, Busingye, Bweza, Nshongi, Mucunguzi, Bikingi and Kutu Gorilla family in Rushaga sector while Mgahinga Gorilla National Park also found in Uganda has only 1 (one) Gorilla family called Nyakagezi Gorilla family. This Park forms the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration as continuation of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Virunga National Park in DR Congo.

The one and only Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park known also for Gorilla trekking has 10 Gorilla families designated for tourists and they include Susa Gorilla Group (Susa A Family), Karisimbi Gorilla Group (Susa-B), Sabyinyo Gorilla Group, Amahoro Gorilla Group, Umubano Gorilla Group, Agashya Gorilla Group, Kwitonda Gorilla Group, Hirwa Gorilla Group, Bwenge Family Group and Ugenda Gorilla Family.

Trekking Mountain Gorillas on a Budget Friendly Plan

Even though gorilla trekking is known to be a life time experience, most trekkers have been left thinking that it’s only for the wealthy class and this is not right. A gorilla trek to see a group of endangered mountain gorillas in the thick tropical rain forests in Uganda and Rwanda is the most thrilling experience that comes once a life time. These are classified as the critically endangered apes by the IUCN and not more than 1,200 individuals still live in the whole world with half of them living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. To be able to view these species, there are about 20 habituated groups that are assigned to eight trekkers per day all of which belong to different trailhead. Some of these groups include; Katwe, Habinyanja, Rushegura and Mubare group in Buhoma sector. Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro and Mukiza group in Ruhija sector. Nkuringo, Bushaho and Christmas family in Nkuringo sector. Mishaya, Kahungye, Busingye, Bweza, Nshongi, Mucunguzi, Bikingi and Kutu Gorilla family in Rushaga sector.

Gorilla Tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda)

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a magnificent verdant swathe of forest across the steep ridges of the Albertine Rift Valley, these 331 km²ancient rains forest, one of the few in Africa to have flourished throughout the last Ice Age and it is a home to the rare Mountain Gorillas.

Gorilla Tracking In Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (Uganda)

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest National Park in Uganda at just 33.7km2. It is located in the corner of south western Uganda in Kisoro District, 12.5km south of Kisoro town council. It makes up the northeastern part of the Virunga Volcano ranges which extends into DR Congo and Rwanda. This comprises of Mount Muhavura, Gahinga and Sabinyo.

The summit of Mount Muhavura is the highest point of the park at 4,127 m and has a small crater lake that tourists may want to visit. The view from the summit is frequently obscured by the cloud. The vegetation in the park includes montane, alpine and sub-alpine flora at each of the different levels up the volcano, varying the altitude. It is possible to climb to the peaks of Gahinga, Sabinyo, and Muhavura, although the pace set by the ranger and armed escort may be exhausting unless you are fit. Climbs can be organised at the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park office in Kisoro.

Gorilla Trekking in Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda)

Volcanoes National Park is the most visited national park in Rwanda and it harbours some of the worlds rare Mountain Gorillas and the rare Golden Monkeys only found in East Africa. It forms part of the Virunga Conservation Area covering more than 125km2, including five extinct volcanoes: Muhabura, Sabyinyo, Gahinga, Karisimbi and Bisoke. The Virunga conservation area is formed of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Virunga National Park in DRC Congo and the Virunga Massif contains over 603 rare Mountain Gorillas to add on the ones in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

Volcanoes National Park has the fantastic scenic forest that is covered with mountains and diverse vegetation as well as the six volcanoes; this is why Rwanda is also known as the land of a thousand hills.

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda and Rwanda.

Permit Cost

Uganda gorilla trekking permit = Cost US$ 700 per person and you will spend 1 hour with rare Mountain Gorillas upon meeting them.

Uganda Gorilla habituation permit = Costs US$ 1,500 per person and you will spend 4 hours with the rare Mountain Gorillas upon meeting them

Rwanda Gorilla trekking permit = Costs US$ 1,500 per person and you will spend 1 hour with the rare Mountain Gorillas upon meeting them.

DR Congo Gorilla trekking permit = Costs US$ 400 per person and you will spend 1 hour with the rare Mountain Gorillas upon meeting them.

Planning Your First Uganda Safari

Enjoying a Uganda safari is the most memorable and life-changing of leisure holidays. You’ll fall in love with safari life in Africa. The first time you go on a game drive, see an elephant, touch a rhino, giraffes, and watch lions climb trees, the moment will stay with you forever.

The Ultimate Guide To Planning Your First Uganda Safari

The most profound of all Uganda safari experiences is the close encounter with the higher apes. That little moment you’ll spend close to a mountain gorilla or band of chimpanzees will profoundly change your relationship with nature.

We live in this giant wildlife reserve and use every leisure time we can spare to inspect this destination’s treasure trove. We have been on countless Uganda safaris and work with numerous safari lodges. We have traveled extensively through the Pearl of Africa as travel bloggers. For us, anytime is safari time because our love for the wide-open spaces, the bush, and all the beautiful creatures in it reincarnates every single day.

Planning your first Uganda safari may be a daunting experience, but with a bit of research and local expert advice, it becomes the most memorable journey you ever make. We’ve written this first-timer’s guide to making planning your holiday in Uganda a great memory.

Why Go On A Uganda Safari

Your first Uganda safari will unwrap vast horizons, open skies, emerald landscapes, and rich tropical forests. Take more days on your first-time safari for a great memorable experience. A slow safari will allow you to immerse yourself in the raw wilderness, to get up close and personal with primates, meeting people of different cultures and ways of life, and contributing to the conservation of the very places and animals you’ve come to see.

You may have seen a lion or elephant in an enclosure at a zoo or in a wildlife documentary on the National Geographic channel. But there is a profound difference when you come upon a band of chimpanzees, a herd of elephants, or a pride of lions in their natural habitat with no fences between you and no commercial breaks to interrupt the action.

A longer Uganda safari allows you a chance to experience indigenous cultures. Whether through traditional foods that might appear on the menu or perhaps interacting with local tribespeople. Uganda Safaris can leave you with a new perspective on life as you witness different ways of living in the remote villages you walk through.

Most Uganda safari holidays are eco-friendly and contribute a big chunk to the conservation of wildlife resources. Uganda’s tourism generates much-needed income to fund conservation efforts. For example, gorilla tourism ensures that the conservation and protection of the mountain gorillas and their sanctuary are well supported. Uganda safaris operators, camps, and lodges directly employ people and resources from local communities.

Going on your first Pearl of Africa safari journey will be a break from the hustle and bustle of daily modern life. It’s a change of scenery, an adventure, and maybe even a culture shock. As the sun rises over the savannah plains or sinks in the Rwenzori Mountain backdrop, you will catch your breath and embrace the silence of these moments, knowing that they will remain in your memory long after you have returned home.

When And Where To Go

Uganda is a well-endowed destination with many incredible attractions to visit, each with its own charms and attractions. The country has a warm and sunny tropical climate, mostly throughout the year. But different regions within the country experience a variety of climates and weather conditions.

When planning your first Uganda safari, the best time to travel depends very much on the destination activity you’ve chosen. Generally, it’s best to go during the dry season, when water is scarce, and animals tend to gather in places where the water hasn’t dried up.

Dirt roads are also easier to navigate during the dry season, and so you can expect to see a lot more animals during the two dry seasons of December to January and June to August.

Note, though, that since the dry season is considered peak season for Uganda safaris, it will likely come with a heftier price tag. If you’re expecting to observe the mountain gorillas in the impenetrable forest of Bwindi, be sure also to consider the availability of gorilla permits.

 

10 reasons why you should go on a Uganda Safari

A Uganda safari because of the people, gorilla trek, climate and breathtaking scenery. Uganda encompasses the typical African travel experience any traveler could ever dream of. It is the confluence of African nature, landscape and cultural melting pot. Here are 10 reasons why Uganda should be on your bucket list.

Reasons you should take on a Uganda safari

1. Ugandans: Warm and Friendly People

People come to Uganda for gorilla safaris but leave with good impressions of the people. Ugandans are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you could ever hope to meet. They are hospitable often happy to share their food and welcome you in their home.

2. Uganda’s Climate and Weather

The climate in Uganda is what many will refer to as near perfect all year round. You can plan your Uganda safari any time of the year and expect to have an amazing time. Uganda is along the equator, home to mountains, lakes and forests that give you the best climate. If you love sunrise’s and sunset’s, you will enjoy these on your Uganda safari. The country has dry and wet seasons only. In the wet seasons – the sun comes out shortly after the rain, making it possible for one to travel and enjoy nature.

3. Fresh Organic Food

The food in Uganda is organic and fresh from the gardens grown by small holder farmers. You have access to fresh vegetables and fruits from the markets daily. The pineapples in Uganda are like no other. If there was a competition, Uganda’s pineapples would win the Guinness book of records. You have opportunity to enjoy different traditional meals from the different tribes. You can include this experience while on your Uganda safari.

4. Breath-taking Scenery

The breath-taking savannah areas and mountainous eastern and western Uganda. The amazing Sipi falls, Sezibwa falls and Kisizi falls while on your Uganda safari. The undulating hills of Kigezi terraced by locals as they work in their gardens. The Ssese Islands in the oceanic-sized Lake Victoria. They have beaches and burning sunsets – the kind of place you’ll want to seek out a hammock and bring a good book.

5. Endangered Mountain Gorillas

The gorilla safari in two national parks in Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mgahinga gorilla national park is home to the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. Gorilla tracking is an experience you look back to and reminisce on with happiness. The experience in the rain forest even before you sight the gorillas is fulling. The mountain gorillas are often found feeding, grooming each other and playing.

6. Chimpanzee trekking

Chimpanzees are mans’ closest relatives sharing a DNA of about 98.7% with man. The chimpanzees develop tools for use and raise young ones mimicking humans. Did you know chimpanzees eat meat? Go chimpanzee trekking in Kibale forest, Budongo forest, Semliki reserve, Kyambura gorge and Kalinzu forest. Enjoy other forest inhabitants and the cool air.

7. Game drives in Uganda’s Savannah national parks

Uganda has 10 national parks and about 12 game reserves. The savannah parks offer game drives. Murchison Falls National Park Uganda’s largest park offering fulfilling game drives. Queen Elizabeth national park for the elusive leopard and tree-climbing lions of Ishasha. Kidepo Valley National Park has rewarding game drives of large herds and scenery. Lake Mburo national park has few numbers of predators but offers nature walks.

8. Jinja: Source of the Nile – Adventure Capital of East Africa

Jinja is the adventure capital of East Africa. It is home to all the adrenalin activities. It is the source of River Nile and home to the best white water rafting experiences over several rapids. You can also do kayaking and or jet boat ride. Bungee jumping to kiss the Nile, Quad biking and horse riding on the banks of the Nile or in the communities.

9. The Mountains

Uganda is home to several mountains that offer great hiking and mountaineering experiences. You can do hiking for a few hours, one day hikes or multi day hikes with the longest being one week. National Geographical selected the Rwenzoris as one of the World’s Best Hikes.

Mount Elgon is one of the oldest volcanic mountains in Africa and has the worlds’ largest caldera. Enjoy sights of beautiful vegetation and landscape as you ascend to Wagagai peak. The Virunga volcanoes are one day hikes – Mt Gahinga, Mt Muhabura and Mt Sabyinyo. Other mountains for your hiking cravings: Mt Moroto, Mt Murungole, Mt Kadam, Mt Napak etc.

10. Lake Bunyonyi

Lake Bunyonyi surrounded by beautiful terraced hills and home to 29 islands is a must visit for you. It is the second deepest lake in Africa. The lake is free from dangerous animals hence people love to swim. You can hire a canoe to take out for a paddle.

We invite you to visit Uganda and experience the hospitality of Ugandans and nature.

Birding in Uganda

Birding in Uganda is one of the top activities that are carried out. The country has numerous bird species and has a record of half of the continent’s bird species. There are over 1000 recorded bird species in the country and these are found in different parts of the country. The country has migratory birds that fly in during the wet season, endemic birds, Albertine rift valley endemic birds and near-endemic birds. Some of the top birding destinations include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Semuliki National Park, Mabamba Bay, Murchison falls National Park and Lake Mburo National Park among others.

Uganda has a high population of bird species because of its closeness to the Equator which brings about the two seasons that the country experiences, that is the dry and wet seasons. The two seasons attract different bird species which can easily be seen from the comfort of your room. Uganda also has a wide range of habitats that are conducive to bird breeding and these include the lakes, Rivers, swamps and wetlands, savannah grasslands and woodlands, tropical rainforests and the Albertine Rift Valley.

Bird species in the country

The endemic Albertine Rift species in Uganda include the Rwenzori Turaco, collared Apalis, Fox’s weaver, short-tailed warbler, Handsome Francolin, blue-headed sunbird, African Green Broadbill, Rwenzori Nightjar, Red-throated Alethe, Red-faced woodland warbler, Regal sunbird, Archer’s Robin-chat, Rwenzori Batis, Dwarf Honeyguide, Mountain Masked Apalis, yellow-eyed Black flycatcher, Chapin’s flycatcher, Regal sunbird, strange weaver, Shelley’s crimson-wing, strange weaver, Kivu Ground Thrush, stripe-breasted Tit, Dusky crimson wing, purple-breasted sunbird, and Grauer’s warbler.

The top bird species in Uganda that you should look out for while on a birding safari in Uganda include the Short-tailed Warbler, the Green-breasted Pitta, Doherty’s Bushshrike, African green Broadbill, Standard-winged Nightjar, The Bar-tailed Trogon, The Black-breasted Barbet, Shoebill and Shelley’s crimson-wing among others. A few of the top birds that are found in Uganda have been explained in detail below but note that these are not the only birds in the country.

African green Broadbill: also known as the Grauer’s Greenbul, is an endangered species that mainly live in tropical forests. It has a small bill, light green colour on its feathers and a blue throat.

Standard-winged Nightjar: these are mainly seen during the evening hours since they are always sleeping or hidden during the daytime.  They can be seen flying in the skies when the sun is setting and their feathers can reach 38cm long when they are stretched.

The Northern Carmine bee-eater: this can be found in the Northern part of Murchison falls National Park and is quite common and note that it is a red and blue bird.

Doherty’s Bushrike: they have a red and green throat and head and are some of the hardest to see although they can easily be heard. They are multi-coloured with a black tail and a light yellow/ lime green middle area.

Malachite Kingfisher: this is a blue-winged bird with an orange chest and can be seen perching on the trees or twigs near the Riverside. It is almost similar to the pygmy kingfisher and can be found in many of the birding spots in Uganda.

Short-tailed Warbler: this is also known as the Neumann’s warbler and has a short tail. It is green and dull white around the eyes and it also has a patch of hair above each of the grey eyes.

Shoebill: best seen in marsh areas, it can be found in Murchison falls National Park and is one of the hardest birds to spot in the country. It has a blue-grey colour to its feathers and a whale head with a big bill.

Birding sites in Uganda

Birding can be done in different parts of the country but the top birding destinations in the country include the following:

QUEEN ELIZABETH NATIONAL PARK

Queen Elizabeth National park is the most visited National Park in the country and has the highest number of registered bird species in the county with over 600 registered bird species. The bird species in QENP can be seen as you enjoy nature walks and game drives through the National Park. The most common bird species that you should look out for include Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, slender-tailed Nightjars, Martial Eagle, Black-headed Gonolek, Swamp Flycatcher, Malachite Kingfishers, Sedge Warbler, Pied Kingfishers, collared Prancticole, Gabon-tailed Nightjars and African skimmer among others. Birding in QENP is done in the different parts of the National Park and these are:

Ishasha sector: best known for the climbing lions, it is also a good birding spot and the birds found here include the African shoebill, African wattled plover, Grey Kestrel, Cisticola, African crowned eagle and the African green pigeon among others.

Lake Kikorongo and Mweya peninsular: common bird species found in these sectors include the sacred Ibis, saddle billed stork, African Jacana, Knob billed duck, little bee-eater, Nubian woodpecker, Swift’s swallows, grey-headed kingfisher and the swamp Night-jar among others.

Katuguru: this is also located in Queen Elizabeth National Park and the bird species that you should look out for here include the Malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, great winged warbler, papyrus gonolek, lesser swamp swabler and the white-winged warbler among others.

Kasenyi: birds in Kasenyi include hooded vultures, little bee-eater, croaking Cisticola, palm-but culture, white-tailed lark, brown-backed robin and the black-bellied bustard among others.

Maramagambo forest: bird species found in the forest include the blue-shouldered Robin, African emerald cuckoo, brown Illadopsis and Red-throated Wryneck among others.

MABAMBA WETLAND BAY

The Mamba wetland Bay is located right at the edge of Lake Victoria and is one of the few places where the shoebill can be seen in Uganda. Canoe rides carried out along the wetland will give you a clear view of the bird species that are found around the wetland and these are the African open-billed stork, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-headed Heron, Papyrus Gonolek, Swamp Flycatcher, Shoebill stork, African Marsh Harrier and the pied Kingfisher among others.

MURCHISON FALLS NATIONAL PARK

Murchison Falls National Park is home to about 400 bird species and these can best be seen while enjoying a boat ride below the falls, nature walks through the Park and Game drives. Bird species in Murchison Falls National Park include the Rock Prancticole, white-faced whistling Duck, swampy flycatcher, Red-throated Bee-eater, black-billed barbet, Squacco Heron, Grey Plantain eater, African Jacana, Malachite Kingfisher, African Quail Finch, Northern Red Bishop, Ground hornbill, Goliath Heron, Blue-headed and the shoebill being the main attraction for birders.

Budongo forest: the forest is found in Murchison falls National Park and has 250 recorded bird species which can be seen by taking a guided nature walk through the forest. You will get to see the Rufous-crowned Elemomela, Blue-throated Roller, spotted Greenbul, Fire-crested Alethe, white-thighed Hornbill, blue-breasted kingfisher and not forgetting the chimpanzees and other primates like the black and white Colobus monkeys.

BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is found in the south-western part of Uganda and is best known for gorilla trekking. It is however home to about 350 bird species with about 24 Albertine endemic species, about 68 highland birds (Afro-topical) and 4 Victoria Biomes. Bwindi is a typical jungle and the only way you get to see the different species is by walking through the different trails within the National Park and the main ones are the waterfall trail which is found in Buhoma, the Bamboo zone and the trail in Ruhija known as the Mubwindi swamp. Bird species in Bwindi include Archer’s Robin-chat, Fine-banded woodpecker, western green Tinkerbird, African wood owl, Red-throated Alethe, Handsome Francolin, African Green Broadbill, collared Apalis, Chapin’s flycatcher, Black-billed Turaco and the white-bellied Robin among others.

SEMULIKI NATIONAL PARK

Semuliki National park is home to over 400 bird species with 9 different species of the Hornbill. Bird species around Semuliki include the Great blue Ross’s Turaco, red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, yellow-throated Nicator, Xavier’s Greenbul, and Piping Hornbill, western Bronze-naped pigeon, Yellow-throated cuckoo, Maxwell’s Black-weaver, Nkulengu rail, Dwarf Honeyguide and the Purple-breasted sunbird among others. The best birding spots in Semuliki National Park are River Kirumia, Ntandi and Sempaya area.

MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK 

Mgahinga National Park is also best known for gorilla trekking but it also has about 180 registered bird species. The birds can be seen while taking guided nature walks through the National Park with species like the savannah forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemic birds. Some of the bird species found in Mgahinga include the Greater Double-collared sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, cape Robin, white-starred Robin, Archer’s Robin-chat, white-faced whistling duck, Rock Prancticole, Martial Eagle, Hugli’s Francolin and the cinnamon Bracken warbler among others.

LAKE MBURO NATIONAL PARK

The National Park has different birding spots where tourists can be able to see the birds more clearly while in their habitat and these are the Warukiri forest, camp Rwonyo, Miriti near the salt lick and the Rubanga forest. Common bird species here include the common Scimitar bill, Rufous-bellied Heron, red-faced Barbet, Bateleur and the Green wood-hoopoe among others.

LUTEMBE BAY

Also located along the Lake Victoria basin, Lutembe Bay is a birding spot with about 200 recorded bird species with 26 migratory birds. While at Lutembe Bay look out for the Holub’s golden weaver, Tropical Boubou, white-winged Black Tern, sooty chat, African pygmy Kingfisher and the lead-colored flycatcher.

RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

Rwenzori Mountain National Park is home to Albertine Rift valley bird species and has about 217 recorded bird species. Bird species here include the Bearded vultures, Long-eared owl, blue-headed sunbird, slender-billed starling, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, white-starred Robin and the Rwenzori Turaco among others.

KIBALE NATIONAL PARK

Kibale National Park is best known for having the largest number of chimpanzees in the country and is a top destination for tourists.  It is home to about 350 different bird species and this is because of the dense vegetation that is found in the National Park which acts as habitats for the birds like the Red-chested owlet, little Greenbul, Black bee-eater, Grey-throated flycatcher, white-naped pigeons, purple-breasted sunbird, blue-breasted kingfisher, crowned eagle, yellow-billed barbet, papyrus canary, white-winged warbler, white-collared olive back and the dusky-blue flycatcher among others.

The Bigodi wetland sanctuary which is found within the Kibaale National park is home to the white-spotted flufftail, speckled breasted woodpecker, Bocage’s Bushrike and the snowy crowned robin-chat among others.

What to bring on your birding safari to Uganda

Choosing Uganda s your birding destination is the best choice because of the many birding spots that are found in the different parts of the country. And to have a good birding trip, you will need to have all the essentials with you without actually over packing. Below are some of the things that you should bring on this trip so that you can have a wonderful birding experience while in Uganda.

Neutral clothes: birding is just like any other activity carried out in Uganda and the right clothing will be needed for a memorable experience. The clothes should be neutral in colour because brightly colored clothes attract wildlife and yet you need to be able to fit in so that you can comfortably view the birds, pack long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid scratches on your body from the trees and bushes, a light rain jacket for when the weather changes, a pair of thick socks where pants can be tucked into and a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection. As you look for neutral-colored clothes, avoid camouflage because they are linked to the army in Uganda.

Guide books: guide books are extremely important for birders and should be on your packing list. The books are sold in a few stores and a few can be found in safari vehicles for tourists to use. The books have almost all the bird species that are found in Uganda and can help you in identifying the bird species that you are looking at since they have both the picture and descriptions of the different bird species. If you are buying a guidebook, try out the Birds of Africa, South of the Sahara among others.

Waterproof hiking boots: although birding can be done o game drives, you will at one point need to move out of the Safari vehicle so that you get better pictures and clear views of the bird species. The guided nature walks might either be short or long and that is why you need good, strong and waterproof hiking boots to keep your feet warm and blister-free after the walk since birding is mostly done during the rainy season with muddy and flooded trail routes.

Spotting scope and binoculars: both equipment helps you to see the different bird species that are always far away from you and those that blend in well with the wilderness. Uganda has all kinds of birds from the smallest to the largest and good binoculars with good magnifying lenses and telescopes will help you see all the bird species in your preferred destination. And as you carry your equipment, make sure that you have a waterproof bag to carry them and we also advise that you an extra pair of binoculars in case the first one gets damaged.

First aid kit: even when you are in good health before you set off for your birding safari while in Uganda, we still advise that you carry a first aid kit because everything is possible in Africa. The first aid kit should have all the necessities like Band-Aids, spirit, antiseptic cream, prescription drugs, pain killers, cotton, and sunscreen, tablets for diarrhoea, rehydration powder and iodine. These will help because you will not have access to clinics or good hospitals while doing birding so make sure that the first aid kit is the first thing in your safari vehicle.

Bottled water and snacks: carry lots of bottled water and snacks because the activity might take long and you do not want to get hungry while enjoying the great views of the different bird species in the country. Other essentials include travel insurance, toiletries and your travel documents.

A camera: this is an important aspect for birders because it helps capture and keep your memories intact. You do not need to be a professional photographer to take photos but all you need is a good camera that comes with an extra memory card, batteries and other camera accessories. Make sure that the camera you have carried is not so heavy and with a good lens. Sony, Nikon and Canon cameras are good and user-friendly for both professional and non-professional photographers.