Uganda unwrapped

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An insider’s overview from the experts at Steppes Travel

Why Visit?
Congolese rainforest meets eastern savannah in this dramatic country. Troops of chimpanzees swing through the vines of Kibale and mountain gorilla families shelter within Bwindi’s dense forests. Although renowned for its iconic primates, Uganda possess a remarkable diversity of wildlife. Lions climb the trees of Queen Elizabeth National Park, shoebills shelter beside Murchison Falls and Rothschild’s giraffes roam the Kidepo Valley.

In a relatively small country, Uganda packs a surprising punch when it comes to its wildlife offering.

Highlights

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

  • Covered in thick tropical rainforest and often shrouded in mist, Bwindi provides a perfect habitat for gorillas; tracking them is one of the great wildlife experiences
  • Other primates abound, and birdlife is bounteous and colourful. Search for dazzling turacos and black and white colobus monkeys
  • Having survived the last ice age, the park is considered one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa.
  • Follow forest walks to waterfalls and traditional villages.

Entebbe and Kampala

  • These two cities are the main entry points to the country, so time in at least one of them is inevitable, and should be enjoyed.
  • Explore the backstreets and markets of Kampala (possibly by boda-boda motorbike taxi?)
  • Go birding in the Entebbe Botanical Gardens and visit Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary.

Kibale Forest

  • Kibale is beautiful, dotted with crater lakes against the backdrop of the Rwenzori Mountains, and a great place for chimpanzee trekking.
  • There are over 330 recorded species of bird here, and clouds of butterflies.
  • There are a remarkable 13 primate species, including the famous red colobus and L’Hoest’s monkey.

Kidepo Valley

  • Uganda’s remotest park, bordering South Sudan, is raw wilderness, with abundant wildlife, including the big cats and possibly East Africa’s largest herds of buffalo, hartebeest, waterbuck and others.
  • Travel for miles without seeing another soul, under an impossibly huge sky, and where you can see the earth’s curve.
  • Spend time with the welcoming Karamajong people.

Lake Mburo

  • A small, oft-overlooked park situated on the way to or from Bwindi.
  • Mburo is the perfect place to relax, with safaris available by boat, foot, vehicle, kayak… or on horseback.

Murchison Falls

  • At the world-famous Murchison Falls, the Nile bursts through a seven-metre gap in the rocks and tumbles for forty metres.
  • Get up close by boat, and see if you can spot some of Africa’s largest crocodiles.
  • Uganda’s largest National Park is also the best place in the country (even Africa!) to search for the shoebill among the marshes.
  • Varied landscape offers excellent wildlife-viewing, including of lions and elephants.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

  • Uganda’s most popular and accessible park, famous for its tree-climbing lions.
  • Head into the Kyambura Gorge to search for the seasonal troop of chimpanzees.
  • Take a sunset cruise along the Kazinga Channel for birding and hippos.
  • See the incredible wildlife as well as Lakes George and Edward, all away from the fluster of tourist crowds.

Semliki

  • Popular for its wilderness and isolation, the drives here are not for ticking off lists but simply for seeing what comes across your path.
  • Elephant, buffalo, big cats and primates all live here, but their relative scarcity means the search is very much part of the fun.
  • The setting alone is worth the visit, with wild scenery and dramatic horizons – and with only one lodge, the place is yours to explore.

The Rwenzori Mountains

  • The Rwenzori Mountains – the ‘Mountains of the Moon’ – stretch for 90 miles between Lake George and Lake Albert, with six peaks capped with ice and snow and three glaciers.
  • The highest peak, Margherita, is the third highest in Africa.
  • The flora and birdlife here is particularly special: trails lead through rainforests full of monkeys and birds before leading into bamboo forest and moorland covered with giant lobelias, towered over by black rock and white snow.

Voice of Experience

‘It was a mild morning, although the sky looked rather cloudy. With waterproofs packed, carrying lots of water and a picnic lunch, our group of eight headed down to the park station. We began with a briefing and set out at a brisk pace.

After about an hour, we stopped for a water break and our ranger advised that we would now start our ascent up the mountain in search of the gorillas that were up ahead. Little did we know that they – the gorillas – would continue to climb the mountain with a group of humans desperately clambering after them.

So the climb started – and boy what a climb – a near vertical ascent, scrambling on hands and knees through virgin rainforest. And, in my case, being unceremoniously dragged up to the summit. Finally, after a further 90 minutes, we stopped and our porters moved aside for us to continue for the last five minutes to a small clearing…

And there they were…!’

To read more about this adventure, click here.

 Top tip

“If your time and budget allow, try to include some time exploring the Kidepo Valley. This wild, open landscape is in perfect contrast with the thick green forests of Bwindi or Kibale. And the local Karamojong people are amongst the most fascinating and welcoming in Uganda.” – Chris Johnston, Steppes Travel Uganda Expert.

Next Steppes

To learn more about travelling to Uganda, and to discuss a personalised itinerary, visit www.steppestravel.com, email us or call +44 (0)3332 223177.

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