Gorillas, chimps and big game all inhabit Uganda, where the East African savanna runs into Central African rainforest, generating astounding diversity.
Uganda is the only country where it’s possible to encounter both mountain gorillas and chimpanzees, as well as undertake a classic “big-game” safari.
From the semi-desert of Karamoja to the snow-capped mountains of the Rwenzoris and the “impenetrable” Bwindi rainforests, Uganda seems to capture the eclectic natural beauty of the whole African continent.
Straddling the equator it’s an extraordinarily green and beautiful land approximately the size as the UK. No less than a sixth of the country is covered in freshwater — a combination of numerous Rift Valley Lakes, the mighty Nile and mammoth Lake Victoria.
The biggest attraction is the mountain gorillas, of which approximately 400 live in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Several habituated families can be reliably visited in small, well-organised trekking parties. Another alluring possibility is chimpanzee tracking, with the option of a full-day habituation experience in the Kibale Forest.
Apart from the great apes, there are several national parks sheltering more familiar East African wildlife, from lions and leopards, to elephants, giraffes, hippos and hyenas.
When it comes to big game, Queen Elizabeth National Park is the best place in Uganda to spot it. We particularly enjoy the wild and remote Ishasha sector, situated on the doorstep of gorilla country, and famed for its tree-climbing lions. An astounding 547 bird species have been recorded in QENP, among the highest figures for any single protected area in the world.
In the arid north-east of Uganda, Kidepo Valley is cut-off from the rest of the Ugandan parks, and only accessible by air, which adds to the feeling of wilderness and splendid isolation. Part of Kidepo’s attraction is the chance it offers to see some of the 28 dryland specialist mammals not found anywhere else in the country, including charismatic bat-eared foxes, caracal and cheetah.
Murchison Falls is named for the famous cataracts, where the Victoria Nile rushes through a 20 foot-wide gorge, crashing onto rocks 150 feet below. Dazed by the ride, fish are easy prey for the crocodiles lurking below, in one of the largest concentrations in Africa. The falls also offers the chance for superb game-viewing and sport fishing.
To witness the point where the savanna and forest converge, Semliki Game Reserve is an essential destination on your trip. The reserve also provides the opportunity for some compelling wildlife-watching, with buffalo, lions and leopards all occupying the same habitat as forest hogs and mangabeys.
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- Mountain gorilla trekking
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- Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest
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Top Reasons To Visit Uganda
Often the best safaris involve looking beyond the obvious highlights. It’s about the myriad exhilarating encounters that will make your heart sing. These are encounters that nobody could ever predict, but that make your safari genuinely unique.
Best Time To Visit Uganda
Understanding a complex climate
As a rule, the best months for wildlife viewing in Uganda are during the dry seasons — from June to mid-September and December to February.
Sitting astride the equator, Uganda enjoys a pleasant tropical climate with little change in temperature throughout the year. However, there is wide regional variation in rainfall patterns – in western Uganda and around Lake Victoria it can rain at almost any time of year, as a rough guide the wettest months are April to May and October through November.
When comes to primate trekking, particularly for gorillas and chimpanzees, you stand a much better chance of keeping dry from December to February or June to September.
Uganda stands alone in its ability to combine a great ape trek with a classic game viewing safari experience, which is also best done during driest months. This is because, given consistently dry weather the seasonal pans and streams dry up, forcing the wildlife to congregate at remaining watering holes. Concurrently the vegetation thins out, allowing a clearer view of the game.
Experience Uganda’s best-kept secrets during the off-season
While the low seasons are often ignored due to the chance of heavy rain, visitors miss out on aspects that can actually enhance their trip.
The chance of encountering fewer people, and benefiting from low season rates on both accommodation and permits, can have its own appeal.
By visiting Uganda’s safari parks between mid-September to November, and from March to May, you’ll witness lush savannas in their verdant glory and all the game is still present – if slightly harder to spot.
Remember too that Uganda’s Gorillas and Chimpanzees inhabit rainforests, which by definition can, and often do, experience rain at any time of year.
And if you’re a keen bird watcher you’ll be able to seek out Uganda’s famous avifauna year-round, with some species notably more vocal in the wetter months which creates a greater chance of spotting them.
Best Time To Visit Uganda
Uganda’sParks & Areas
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to seeing Uganda’s majestic wildlife, with each of its parks promising unique encounters and incredible experiences.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
Home to around half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas, the steep Impenetrable Forest is also one of Africa’s most ancient habitats.
– Mountain gorilla trekking
– Primordial, mist covered forests
– Potential encounters with elephants & primates
– Birds galore and colourful butterflies
Located on the border of Sudan and Kenya, the remote Kidepo Valley National Park offers an outstandingly beautiful game tracking experience.
– Remote and wild
– Beautiful scenery with rock outcrops and rugged mountains
– Good number of plains game including elephants and buffalo
Murchison Falls & Lake Albert
Populated by some of the best-known plains animals, and with a backdrop courtesy of Lake Albert, Murchison Falls National Park offers natural landscapes unrivalled in all of Uganda.
– Uganda’s largest park
– The famous Murchison Falls
– Good number of plains game including elephants and buffalo
– Boat trips from the falls to see hippo and birdlife
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Offering diverse wildlife and expansive views, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of Uganda’s most awe-inspiring safari destinations.
– First class big game safari
– Rwenzori Mountains dominate the landscape
– Masses of hippo, crocs and birds in the Kazinga Channel
– See the famous tree-climbing lions
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Explore the forest home of the endangered mountain gorilla in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
– Picturesque but extinct volcanoes
– Home to endangered mountain gorillas
– 12 endemic bird species including the Rwenzori Turaco
– Forest walks and mountain hikes
Uganda (FAQs) Need to Know
Which is the best safari park in Uganda?
The biggest wildlife draw in Uganda is undoubtedly the Mountain Gorillas, for which you’ll need to head to Bwindi Impenetrable or Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks and if you are keen to continue the Great Ape theme then Kidepo is the best bet for Chimpanzee encounters.
When it comes to plains game there is more choice with the Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Kidepo National Parks all boasting superb wildlife.
The Queen Elizabeth National Park (endearingly known as “the Queen” amongst the guides) is geographically closest to the the Gorillas and most famous for its tree-climbing lions.
Murchison Falls is named after the eponymous cataract on the Nile and as well as excellent game-viewing in the park offers fantastic sport fishing on the Nile.
Kidepo is the most remote and being arid hosts a swathe of large mammal species not found elsewhere in Uganda – zebras, cheetah and caracals among them.
When is the best time to visit Uganda for game viewing?
Uganda safari holidays are most popular during the dry seasons from June to mid-September and December to February. This is because the climate is at its driest and the animals are most visible during these periods. All of the lodges and camps will be open too, giving you your pick of activities to enjoy and areas to explore.
When is the best time to visit Uganda for gorilla trekking?
Although visitors to Uganda can go gorilla trekking all year round, the dry seasons are the most popular time for it. This is because it is harder to hike through dense vegetation and steep slopes during the country’s rainy period when it can get very slippery under foot.
That said, low season rates and less other people around can have its attraction, particularly if you are focussing on the Great Apes and not combining this with a conventional safari – which irrefutably is easier in the drier months.
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It takes genuine local knowledge to craft trips that go beyond the ordinary. The Natural High team have unrivalled experience and will take your ideas and turn them into your trip of a lifetime.
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