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


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.


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


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 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.

Kibale National Park.

Locals and the park

Two major tribes, the Batooro and Bakiga, inhabit the area around the park. They use the park for food, fuel, and other resources with the help of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.In the last century, the population around the park has increased by seven fold.

This is speculated to be because the park directly brings in revenue for those living around it and the tourism industry creates jobs. In addition, many farmers believe that the soil is better for growing crops year round. This increase in the population has caused the area around the park to be divided and developed or turned into plantations and farmland, and demand for firewood asserts pressure on the park’s wildlife habitat.

Organizations like the New Nature Foundation are working to restore harmony to the people-park relationship by empowering local citizens to meet their needs in sustainable ways. Cutting trees for fuel has already strained many of the forest areas outside Kibale.


Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Endangered) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey (Vulnerable).


Chimpanzee eating figs in Kibale National Park

There are 13 species of primates in Kibale National Park. The park protects several well-studied habituated communities of common chimpanzee, as well as several species of Central African monkey including the Uganda mangabey (Lophocebus Uganda), the Ugandan red colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles) and the L’Hoest’s monkey.

Other primates that are found in the park include the black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza) and the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis). The park’s population of elephants travels between the park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Other terrestrial mammals that are found within Kibale National Park include red and blue duikers, bushbucks, sitatungas, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, common warthogs, and African buffalo.

The carnivores that are present include leopards, African golden cats, servals, different mongooses and two species of otter. In addition, lions visit the park on occasion. Habituated Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park

Bird life is also prolific. The park boasts 325 species of birds, including the olive long-tailed cuckoo, western tinkerbird, two species of pittas (African and green-breasted) and the grey parrot. The ground thrush (Turdus kibalensis) is endemic to Kibale National Park.


Primates are very common in Kibale National Forest. The forest has some of the highest abundances of species of primates in the area. There are many species of primates and these species persist in the less disturbed areas of the forest in their natural habitats. There are disturbances that are hindering some of these species.

Logging effects on primates

Logging effects have been studied specifically by a few people. Most studies find that logging seems to be having a negative effect on the species but there are some contradictions.

Some species of primates are found less frequently in logged areas but others were unaffected. This study helps reveal the importance of stopping logging in certain regions of Kibale National Forest. The species from the study are shown below. These species densities show the effect of logging on each separate species:

* Heavily logged areas:

* Found in lower densities: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), redtails (Cercopithecus ascanius)

* Found in mixed densities: red colobus (Procolobus badius), black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza)

* Unlogged areas:

* Found in mixed densities: red colobus (Procolobus badius), black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza)

Another study conducted by Chapman and his colleagues in 2000 showed that many species of primates returned and came back to their original densities in lightly logged forest but in the heavily logged forest primates species were not able to recover.

This study helps support that Kibale National Forest needs to develop a light logging system different from their heavily logging system they conduct now.

Degraded agricultural lands effect on primates

Degraded lands occur when land is cleared for agriculture and then abandoned after a few years. These lands are coming back at different rates and some are showing no possibility of re-growth.

The effect these lands have on primates is still slightly unknown but some studies have started weeding out answers. One study found that most species of primates were found evenly distributed throughout the entire forest, whether there was agriculture encroachment or not.

Diet of primates in Kibale National Park

Different species have different diets and many of the species are folivorous. One study actually found that black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) eat younger leaves over older leaves (this is thought to happen because the leaves have more protein and are easier to digest).


Kibale Forest National Park

There are approximately 229 species of trees found within the moist tropical forests of the park. Some endangered timber species of trees include Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense, and Lovoa swynnertonnii.

The forest understory is dominated by shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs, which include Palisota schweinfurthii and Pollia condensata, in addition to ferns and broad leaf grasses.

Forest management

Forestry research in the park

Many studies have been conducted within the park to assess the factors influencing forest regeneration and forest management techniques. One such study’s results suggested that forest restoration could be achieved through preventing fires within the park and allowing natural succession to occur so that the grasslands formed due to human activity could naturally regenerate to forests. 

The results showed that plots within the park that had the longest history of fire exclusion had the highest species diversity of trees. Furthermore, species of trees that required animal dispersal of their seeds were far more abundant than non-animal dispersed species in the plot with the longest duration of fire exclusion.

This suggests that seed dispersing animals were also more abundant in areas where fire was excluded. Lastly, the presence of seed dispersers and animal dispersed species of trees in some grassland plots suggest that suppressing fire and allowing natural seed dispersal to occur can encourage forest regeneration.

Another study evaluated the use of exotic pine and cypress tree plantations as a forest restoration technique within the park. This study showed a high level of natural regeneration of indigenous trees within pine plantations most likely due to the use of these plantations by seed dispersing animals such as red tail monkeys, chimpanzees, duikers, and bush pigs, all of which were sited or tracked within the plantations.

Wild coffee project

Robusta coffee grows negatively in the Kibale forest area. From 1999 to 2002 an effort was made to commercialize this coffee as a premium consumer brand, emulating and extending the success of shade grown in Central America. Revenue from the coffee production was intended to finance conservation management activities.

Initial funding for project development came from USAID. The project was implemented with funding from the Ford Foundation and $750,000 from the World Bank Global Environment Facility. The project had initial success in setting up local production standards and procedures and control infrastructure.

Initially it was led by the Uganda Coffee Trade Federation, until the independent US-based non-profit Kibale Forest Foundation was created to take over the project. Sustainable annual yield was estimated at 1,500 pounds (680 kg). Organic certification was delivered by the Swedish KRAV labeling firm.

It was subsequently discovered that there was no demand for the product, as the robusta variety is perceived as inferior to Arabia coffee typically demanded by the premium market. Various blending schemes were turned down by coffee distributors. Project leaders estimated that $800000 in marketing expenditure would be required to create demand.


Accessing Kitagata hot springs

Located in Kitagata Town Council, south in Sheema District, the hot springs are approximately two kilometers from the trading center.  Travelers can access Kitagata either by branching off at Ishaka Town on the Mbarara-Kasese Road or at Kagamba, on the Ntungamo-Rukungiri Road. The springs can also be accessed through Kabwohe, on Mbarara-Kasese Highway.
According to Nazario Bishanga, the Kitagata hot springs caretaker, the facility attracts hundreds of domestic and foreign tourists every week.
The springs are revered by neighboring communities and the Ankole sub-region consider it to be sacred, with healing powers. I gathered that some people throng the site to perform some rituals’

Top tourist destination
Over the years, Kitagata hot springs have become a desired tourist destination in the western region. Everyone that visits the site marvels at nature with bubbling hot water. There are recreation centres and hotels where tourists can secure descent accommodation.
The hot springs are near national parks such as  Lake Mburo , Queen Elizabeth, Mountain Rwenzori, Bwindi impenetrable and Mgahinga. Visitors to these parks can make a stopover at Kitagata and enjoy the natural wonder. BBC With Inspire African Safaris we offer other Safaris Packages such as Gorilla trekking, Chimpanzee tracking

Healing waters
According to the caretaker,  Kitagata hot springs has never registered any cases of spreading diseases or infections. People with muscle aches and skin complications have found their way to the springs.
The water from the springs is believed to have rich mineral content that has healing properties to eliminate muscular and joint pains. Some tourists carry jerrycans to take hot water back home for drinking.
The springs also provide a natural spa treatment with water’s therapeutic benefits. Here, you can lay back and relax after a long day. Residents in Sheema and Bushenyi are known for flocking the springs after work for a sensational experience.

Learning centre
The place is busy. It is a ‘hospital’ where patients admit themselves and discharge themselves after treatment.   Whether or not they recover completely from their ailments, is subject to debate.
Students from primary and secondary schools within and outside the district visit Kitagata hot springs regularly for learning purposes. According to science, hot springs occur when rainwater or groundwater is heated by magma beneath the surface of the earth.

Cracks or faults on the surface of the earth allow water to flow deeper into the mantle, where contact with hot rocks that heat water happens.
Other theories say hot springs are formed by cracks extending down towards exceedingly hot temperatures of the mantle, and water seeping downwards is heated and forced back up under pressure to bubble.

Besides the hot springs in Kitagata, you can also visit Muhito hills. The hills stand a few kilometres away from the springs. Activities such as hiking, bicycle riding, picturesque moments of sunsets will make your tour experience worthwhile.

Hiking can also be done at Kyangyenyi hill in Bushenyi greater sub-region with an elevation of 1916 (6286ft) above the sea level. It is located in Kyangyenyi Sub-county, north of Sheema District and it  offers magical moments of rolling hills and valleys of Muzira and Ryamasa.

Around Kyangyenyi, residents  sometimes offer free guiding services and company, taking you to the summit and back. To hike Kyangyenyi hill,  you need to be mentally prepared and physically fit to avoid cardiac accidents as you trek to the summit and descend.

Bwayegamba and Nyakwebundika are small hills that rise from gently sloping plains between Masheruka and Itendero, also in Sheema District.
They are located about 30 kilometres from Kitagata hot springs. These inselbergs provide a spectacular scenic view of  agricultural activities on the slopes.

Keitambogo swamp
The hot springs are surrounded by the prominent Keitambogo swamp and river, some of the features that offer an opportunity to spot rare species of birds and monkeys. It is fascinating to see monkeys playing around the hot springs.

Communities around Sheema engage in agricultural activities that have boosted the economy within the region. The area is also known as a food basket in the Ankole sub-region. Visiting areas around Kitagata will give you a hint on how different food crops are grown.

About the traditional dishes, you cannot talk about food in Ankole and leave out Eshabwe (ghee sauce). Eshabwe is a traditional dish prepared in many parts of Ankole. It is usually prepared for guests or during special events.
It is found in towns of Kabwohe, Bushenyi, Ishaka and in hotels along the Mbarara-Kasese highway. People here eat their eshabwe with millet bread.

You are likely to see crafts and artifacts made by communities surrounding Kitagata hot springs such as ornaments, beads, earrings, décor materials, books, traditional wear and household items. These can be found on highways and craft shops where they are always displayed.

Untapped treasure
With all its potential, Kitagata hot springs are still underutilised. Negotiations aimed at transforming Kitagata into a geo-tourism centre and a major revenue earner have been ongoing,  but these efforts have not yielded any fruit.

In 2019, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in partnership with a Hungarian firm, proposed to establish a health and wellness spa in  Kitagata, but not much can be seen on the ground.
According to Ian Ibara, a caretaker and one of the stakeholder of the hot springs, about 500,000 domestic and foreign tourists visits the site annually.

Fishermen also carry out minor fishing activities around the wetland.
Besides Kitagata Hot Springs, other major hot springs in Uganda include Sempaya Hot Springs, Rwagimba, Amoropii, Buranga, Ihimba, and Kibiro Hot Springs.

Kenya’s Lake Nakulu

Lake Nakuru is one of the Rift Valley lakes at an elevation of 1,754 m (5,755 ft) above sea level. It lies to the south of Nakuru, in the rift valley of Kenya and is protected by Lake Nakuru National Park.

The lake’s abundance of algae used to attract a vast quantity of flamingos that famously lined the shore. Other birds also flourish in the area, as do warthogs, baboons and other large mammals. Eastern black rhinos and southern white rhinos have also been introduced.

The lake’s level dropped dramatically in the early 1990s but has since largely recovered. In 2013, the lake received an alarming increase in the water levels that led to the migration of flamingos to Lake Bogoria in search for food supply.

Nakuru means “Dust or Dusty Place” in the Maasai language. Lake Nakuru National Park, close to Nakuru town, was established in 1961. It started off small, only encompassing the famous lake and the surrounding mountainous vicinity, but has since been extended to include a large part of the savannahs.

Lake Nakuru is protected under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.

Lake Nakuru National Park

National Park entranceFlamingos feeding at Lake Nakuru

Lake Nakuru National Park (188 km2, 73 mi2), was created in 1961 around Lake Nakuru, near Nakuru Town. It is best known for its thousands, sometimes millions of flamingos nesting along the shores. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink.

The number of flamingos on the lake varies with water and food conditions and the best vantage point is from Baboon Cliff. Also of interest is an area of 188 km (116 mi) around the lake fenced off as a sanctuary to protect giraffes as well as both black and white rhinos.

The park has recently been enlarged partly to provide the sanctuary for the black rhinos. This undertaking has necessitated a fence – to keep out poachers rather than to restrict the movement of wildlife.

The park marches for 12.1 km on the south eastern boundary with the Soysambu conservancy which represents a possible future expansion of habitat for the rhinos and the only remaining wildlife corridor to Lake Naivasha.

The park now (2009) has more than 25 eastern black rhinoceros, one of the largest concentrations in the country, plus around 70 southern white rhinos. There are also a number of Rothschild’s giraffe, again relocated for safety from western Kenya beginning in 1977. 

Water buck are very common and both the Kenyan subspecies are found here. Among the predators are lions, cheetahs and leopards, the latter being seen much more frequently in recent times. The park also has large sized pythons that inhabit the dense woodlands, and can often be seen crossing the roads or dangling from trees.

As well as flamingos, there are myriad other bird species that inhabit the lake and the area surrounding it, such as African fish eagle, Goliath heron, hamerkop, pied kingfisher and Verreaux’s eagle among others of their kind.

Habitat and Wildlife

White Rhinos

Lake Nakuru, a small (it varies from 5 to 45 square kilometers) shallow alkaline lake on the southern edge of the town of Nakuru lies about 164 kilometers north of Nairobi. It can therefore be visited in a day tour from the capital or more likely as part of a circuit taking in the Masai Mara (Also Maasai Mara) or Lake Baringo and east to Samburu.

The lake is world-famous as the location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos whose numbers are legion, often more than a million – or even two million. They feed on the abundant algae, which thrives in the warm waters. Scientists reckon that the flamingo population at Nakuru consumes about 250,000 kg of algae per hectare of surface area per year.

There are two types of flamingo species: the lesser flamingo can be distinguished by its deep red carmine bill and pink plumage unlike the greater, which has a bill with a black tip. The lesser flamingos are ones that are commonly pictured in documentaries mainly because they are large in number.

The number of flamingos has been decreasing recently, perhaps due to too much tourism, pollution resulting from industries waterworks nearby who dump waste into the waters or simply because of changes in water quality which makes the lake temporarily inhospitable. Usually, the lake recedes during the dry season and floods during the wet season.

In recent years, there have been wide variations between the dry and wet seasons’ water levels. It is suspected that this is caused by increasing watershed land conversion to intensive crop production and urbanization, both which reduce the capacity of soils to absorb water, recharge ground water and thus increase seasonal flooding.

Pollution and drought destroy the flamingos’ food, Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, and causing them to migrate to the nearby Lakes, more recently lakes Elmenteita, Simbi Nyaima and Bogoria. Local climate changes have also been hypothesized to contribute to the changing environmental conditions in the lakes catchment.

Recent media reports indicate increasing concern among stakeholders, as mass flamingo migrations and deaths could spell doom to the tourism industry.

The flamingos feed on algae, created from their droppings mixing in the warm alkaline waters, and plankton. But flamingo are not the only avian attraction, also present are two large fish eating birds, pelicans and cormorants.

Despite the tepid and alkaline waters, a diminutive fish, Alcolapia grahami has flourished after being introduced in the early 1960s. The lake is rich in other bird life. There are over 400 resident species on the lake and in the surrounding park.

Thousands of both little grebes and white winged black terns are frequently seen as are stilts, avocets, ducks, and in the European winter the migrant waders.

Zooplankton: The monogonont rotifer species Brachionus sp. Austria (belonging to the Brachionus plicatilis cryptic species complex) occurs in the lake.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Virunga Region

Welcome to Mgahinga National Park, a complete guide for visitors with everything you need to know about the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in South West Uganda. Our aim is to provide free and inspiring advice to help you plan an amazing experience in Mgahinga National Park. Whether you are looking at gorilla trekking in the park, hiking the Virunga Volcanoes, golden monkey tracking, you will find all the information to plan your trip.

Find information about the park, things to see (attractions), things to do (activities) and a travel planner to help you plan a perfect gorilla safari to Mgahinga Forest. Our exclusive safari planner section has detailed information on planning a gorilla trek, when to go, gorilla permits, how to book your safari, where to stay and more!

Top Safari Experiences – Tours and Activities

Would you like to go gorilla trekking in Uganda? We bring to you all year round tours to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the neighboring areas including Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Lake Mutanda, Lake Bunyonyi and the Virunga Region. Interested in hiking, biking, sightseeing or gorilla tours? Here are some private custom tours that are offered by selected tour operators at discounted prices to enable you experience Mgahinga National Park.$1,480

All About Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

At just 33.7km2, Mgahinga National Park is Uganda’s smallest national park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the southwestern corner of Uganda. The Park covers the northern slopes of the three northernmost Virunga Volcanoes: Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Gahinga (3,474 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The Park is about 10 km south of Kisoro and is bordered to the south by the Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda and to the west by the Virunga National Park of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The park is part of the larger Virunga Conservation area that spreads over the three countries. Each of these countries protects its own portion of the Virungas, in the Parc National des Volcans and Parc National des Virunga respectively. The three parks together form the 434-sq. km. ‘Virunga Conservation Area’ or VCA. Mgahinga is 33.7 sq. km, just 8% of the VCA. The entire Park is in Bufumbira County of Kisoro District.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is 33.7 sq. km and consists of the partly forested slopes of three extinct volcanoes. From far away, the huge cones of the Virunga volcanoes dominate the landscape and beckon you as you approach. When you reach the park you can get a great overview of the area by walking up the viewpoint, just 15 minutes from Ntebeko Gate.

Mgahinga Park has great biological importance because throughout the climatic changes of the Pleistocene ice ages, mountains such as these provided a refuge for mountain plants and animals, which moved up or down the slopes as climate became warmer or cooler. The Virunga’s are home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Things to See in Mgahinga National Park

There are lots of things to see in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From the endangered mountain gorillas to golden monkeys, three of the Virunga Volcanoes and unique flora and fauna. Here are the top attractions of Mgahinga National Park. that you should not miss!

Mountain Gorillas

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to more than half of the world’s population of the endangered mountain gorilla. Fortunately for the gorillas are the main reason as to why the park was created by the Uganda government.

Virunga Volcanoes

Mgahinga is one of the most scenic given that the park lies on the northern slopes of Mt. Muhavura, Mgahinga and Sabinyo. These three volcanoes create an unforgettable regional backdrop. 

Golden Monkeys

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the only destination where Silver meets Gold. The park protects both mountain gorillas and golden monkeys. The golden monkeys are an ancient group of monkeys that are only found in the Virunga. 

The Virunga Volcanoes

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to three of the eight conical Virunga Volcanoes.

Mount Sabyinyo

Sabinyo has three peaks. Sabinyo is a local word that comes from the word ‘Iryinyo’, meaning tooth. The borders of three countries converge on this summit and you will find yourself simultaneously in Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. 

Mount Gahinga

Mgahinga National Park derives its name from this volcanic mountain. This dormant/extinct volcano lies on the border between Uganda and Rwanda. An ascent of Mount Gahinga climbs from Ntebeko takes around 6 hours. 

Mount Muhavura

This classic volcanic cone is capped by a small but lake; a modest reward for a 5 hour trek that rises 1700m to over 41OOm. The word Gahinga comes from the local Rufumbira dialect meaning “a small pile of stones”.

Things to Do in Mgahinga National Park

There are lots of things to do in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. From gorilla trekking to Volcano Hiking, Mgahinga is such a place where you can engage in several adventure activities.

Gorilla Tracking

Gorilla Tracking is the most popular activity that is done in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Most travelers to Mgahinga visit the park for mountain gorilla trekking. There is one habituated gorilla family i.e. Nyakagezi Gorilla Family. 

Volcano Hiking

Though gorilla trekking is the park’s most popular activity, Mgahinga merits a visit simply to appreciate the scenery. A choice of hikes allows for all abilities, ranging from the 8 hour return trip to the summit of Mt. Muhabura, to gentle strolls across the lower slopes beneath the magnificent three peak backdrop. 

Golden Monkey Tracking

Golden monkey tracking is one of the top activities that make this park an interesting place for tourists to visit for a primate safari. Challenge yourself an engage in this life changing activity and achieve an excitement of a lifetime. 

Batwa Trail

The Batwa Trail leads from the base of Muhavura Cave. This walk is conducted by Batwa guides who provide insights into their traditional forest life and culture. The Batwa used to live with the gorillas in hamony within the Mgahinga Forests.

Bird Watching

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is ideal for birding. Bird through different places including the Buffalo Wall, forests, wetlands and other habitats. Some of the birds to see include ibis, speckled mous, fire finch and many others found in the area.

Garama Cave Exploration

The 342m long Garama Cave lies beneath a plateu northern edge of the park, 3km from Ntebeko. It is set in the former farmland zone but in earlier times, the cave forest when it was occupied periodically by Batwa who used it as a council chamber and a retreat.

Safari Planner

Plan a safari to Mgahinga National Park

Planning to go for the thrilling gorilla trekking in Mgahinga National Park? Here is all the information you need to plan a perfect trip to see the endangered mountain gorillas within the park.

When to Go

Wondering about the best time to visit Mgahinga? The park experiences two rainy seasons; March-May and September-November. October is the wettest month, with 250mm of rain and July the driest with just 10mm. Most tourists go for gorilla safaris during the dry months of June-October and December to March. It is advisable to book your gorilla passes at least 4 months to the travel period given that there is a high demand for the Mgahinga gorilla passes.

Where is Mgahinga National Park?

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in South Western Uganda. The Park is situated about 8-10 hours drive from Kampala, Uganda and about 6 hours drive from Kigali, Rwanda. The can be accessed using both road and air transport.

Which entrance to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park should I take?

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has one main entrance for visitors and it is accessible from all directions. The Ntebeko gate is accessible from Kisoro Town and there is proper signage to the park headquarters.

How should I get to Mgahinga National Park

Most people travel on pre-booked Uganda safaris that are arranged by various tour operators. If you are looking to an independent trip, you should consider driving to to the park or using public transport as per our resource information. On this website, you can also check out our road trip ideas. Once you get to the park, you hike through the park on foot.

Where should I stay on my Safari Vacation?

There are several campgrounds, hotels and lodges around Kisoro and Lake Mutanda Area. There are no developed lodging facilities inside the park. There are various lodging options near the Ntebeko’s entrances. Depending on the season, you will need to reserve hotels and campgrounds well in advance.

What animals will I see in Mgahinga National Park?

There are several animals that have been recorded within the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Though gorilla trekking is the most popular adventure, there are several wildlife viewing activities that you can take within the park such as golden monkey tracking, buffalo viewing, bird watching etc. Check out our wildlife checklist for a detailed listing of animals that you can see in the region’ Septembers 28, 2021 

Things to See
  • Garama Cave
  • Mount Gahinga
  • Mount Muhavura
  • Mount Sabinyo
  • Virunga Volcanoes
  • Wildlife
  • Golden Monkeys
  • Mountain Gorillas
Things to Do
  • Batwa Trail
  • Birding in Mgahinga
  • Golden Monkey Tracking
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Mount Muhabura Hike
  • Nature Walks
  • Nature Walks
Plan a Gorilla Trek
  • Gorilla Families
  • Nyakagezi Gorilla Group
  • Gorilla Permits
  • Gorilla Trekking
  • When  to Go Gorilla Trekking
  • Habituated Gorilla Families in Mgahinga
  • Gorilla Safari Companies to Use
  • What to Wear on a Gorilla Trek
  • What to Pack for Gorilla Trekking
  • How to Book Gorilla Permits
  • Gorilla Trekking Rules & Regulations
  • Facts About Mgahinga Gorillas
Where to Stay
  • Budget Lodges
  • Guest Houses
  • Hotels
  • Lodges
  • Safari Lodges

Trekking and Hiking in Uganda

Hiking is a long, vigorous walk, usually on trails or footpaths in the countryside. Walking for pleasure developed in Europe during the eighteenth century.[1] Religious pilgrimages have existed much longer but they involve walking long distances for a spiritual purpose associated with specific religions.

Few countries in Africa can combine trekking through jungle thickets, where light bounces off the dense shrubbery illuminating your path in a haze of green, with mountaineering to snow-capped peaks where icicles hang above the clouds and wildlife walks across savannah grasslands that stretch for miles – but Uganda can

What are the trekking options in Uganda?

The short answer is you can find fantastic trekking routes of various difficulties almost everywhere in Uganda, certainly at all the most popular destinations. 

We’ve broken down your options as follows: 

  1. Gorilla trekking in Uganda
  2. Chimpanzee trekking in Uganda
  3. Rwenzori Mountains
  4. Light forest walks
  5. Kidepo Valley & The Ik Trek

1. Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

Gorilla trekking is the flagship experience in Uganda. The two places you can trek gorillas in Uganda are Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. 

Bwindi is by far the most popular choice as the park contains more gorillas, has much better accommodation options, and fits nicely along a classic south-western circuit. 

Uganda is arguably the best place in the world to see gorillas. It is also possible in neighbouring Rwanda, but gorilla permits are much cheaper in Uganda. The habituated Gorillas are shy and docile, despite their strength.

2. Chimpanzee Trekking in Uganda

Gorillas aren’t the only primates in Uganda’s forests.

Unlike gorilla trekking, the chimp trekking terrain is not too challenging and so you don’t have to be particularly fit or able to trek for long periods to track chimpanzees.

Standard tracking excursions last about three hours and include a maximum of one hour with the chimps, during which you can expect to get within 8-10 metres.

Permits are required to track the chimpanzees, and you will join a group (maximum of 8) led by Uganda Wildlife Authority Interpretive Rangers who will introduce you to the chimps and their forest world.hanging out with the chimps on their turf is an unforgettable experience.

3. Rwenzori Mountains

Uganda’s most challenging and spectacular trekking destination, the Rwenzori Mountains are an alpine wonderland within Central Africa. A place of exploration, where vegetation morphs to snow-capped peaks. Take aim at the glacial summits, step by ice-bound step.

Trails range for a day-taster trip to a 12 day, multi-peak, expedition.

The Rwenzoris must be explored on foot, and you must be of above average fitness and used to endurance activities. It’s no walk in the park!

Margherita Peak has recently been reclassified as a technical climb and although you don’t need to be an expert climber in winter conditions, some experience is recommended.Hiking the snow-capped peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.

4. Light Forest Walks

In Murchison Falls National Park

The churning waters of the Nile prevent boats from approaching close to the base of Murchison Falls. To experience the full force of the falls, disembark at the limit of the boat’s approach and hike through riverine woodland and along a cliff face to the summit of the falls.

Murchison is also a fantastic destination for bird walks and the Kyambura Gorge in Murchison is another chimpanzee trekking destination. 

Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi

Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi are beautiful areas for relaxation, typically included after a hardy gorilla trek in the nearby Bwindi Forest.

The views by the lakes are stunning, and it is the perfect place for some light adventuring in a remote pocket of the country. 

There are a number of walking trails that will take you deep into the surrounding countryside. If you like to maximise your adventure, it is also possible to hike and canoe from the airport in Kisoro to Nkuringo in the south of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.Lake Mutanda is surrounded by stunning natural beauty.

Semliki Valley

The Semliki Valley is a wonderfully remote park near the western border of Uganda.

There are three trails at Semliki. The longest is the 13 kilometre Kirumia Trail, which takes you through the heart of the forest to the Semuliki River. Expect to be out for 8 hours.

Slightly shorter at 11 kilometres, the Red Monkey Trail follows the park’s eastern border to the Semliki River with the aim of sighting the rare deBrazza’s monkey, which is often seen in this area.

The shortest trail is the 8 kilometre Sempaya Nature Trail. It introduces visitors to the forest’s primates and the hot springs. The hike lasts between 2 and 4 hours and can take place in the morning or afternoon.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is Uganda’s most bio-diverse national park and any trip here will include plenty of game drives and boat safaris, but there is also ample opportunity for walking.

Queens is another popular chimpanzee trekking destination, and for birders and those who love walking far from the normal trails, the Maramagambo Forest is the perfect place to spend half or even a full day.

Sheltered from the hot sun by the dense canopy, you can explore the shadows, discovering species not seen on the open plains, stumble across hidden crater lakes and marvel at the sheer mass of life found within a bat cave.

Lake Mburo

At Lake Mburo National Park, the whole area is available to explore on foot, as long as you take a guide with you.

Favourite trails are to the salt lick at Rwonyo, the lake shorelines, Rubanga Forest and viewpoint hill tops. 

Walks are the most exciting way to discover the park because visibility is often restricted by the undergrowth, and it is difficult to see buffalo holding their ground or hyena loping back to their dens after a night out hunting.

Walks are also the best way for birders to track down the more elusive species.

5. Kidepo Valley & The Ik Trek

Wildlife Walks

Most of the walking trails in the Kidepo Valley National Park take 2 to 3 hours and wind their way through the Narus Valley.

Birders will often patrol the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys looking for the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo.

For those looking for a greater challenge, a 15 kilometre route follows the ridge line into the hills.

While there are many possible trails, it is worth being aware that some may not have been walked for a long time and will be temporarily closed. Kidepo has over 50 Rothschild’s giraffe, an internationally important population.

The Ik Trek

The Ik still live a marginal life in the Morungole Mountains, but they have recovered from what was obviously a nadir in their history.

They welcome guided treks made by visitors eager to explore the landscape they inhabit and to understand a little more about their unique way of life.

This is not voyeuristic tourism. It is a difficult trek, both physically and due to the questions it raises about human rights, sustainable conservation and human development.

But with fees from the trek going to Ik community initiatives and interest from the outside world going some way to protecting the people from neighbourly threat, it is a compelling experience. It is also a beautiful trek.

Two different routes are available, depending on local weather conditions and your level of fitness.