Top Things To Do In Uganda (And Why We Keep Going Back)
Is an unforgettable African adventure on your travel bucket list? Uganda is your destination for a truly unique experience on the largest continent in the world. If you need inspiration for your list of things to do in Uganda, look no further!
The country of Uganda is located in East Africa and boasts some incredibly wild and diverse landscapes, ranging from lush green hills to snow capped mountains and dozens of rivers, including the world-famous Nile River and Semliki River.
Despite being totally landlocked, Uganda has some of the most amazing water features on the continent!
Visit the city of Kampala bordering Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and the world’s largest tropical lake. Stay in Jinja, eastern Uganda’s adventure capital with access to all kinds of adrenaline-inducing activities. Take a boat safari at the source of the Nile River, go mountain biking, quad biking, or horse riding along the banks of the famous waterway, or get your blood pumping with whitewater rafting down the world’s second longest river.
Ecotourism in Uganda
Traveling to Uganda is different from traveling in the U.S. or Europe. Ecotourism—defined as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the wellbeing of local people, and involves interpretation and education” (International Ecotourism Society, 2015) — is quickly gaining popularity in places like Uganda, where so much of their tourism is based on the country’s natural landscapes and native animals.
Uganda’s parks and preserves are beginning to see a big rise in visitation for wildlife viewing and epic adventure sports, and ecotourism in these precious places is more important than ever.
Practices in ecotourism focus on preserving and maintaining the well-being of natural resources, wildlife, and communities coexisting with them.
When visiting Uganda, though, it’s easy to fall in line with the conservation efforts. Uganda wildlife and nature are magnificently raw, which makes it easy to feel connected to the entire ecosystem and more impassioned to preserve it than ever.
Top Wildlife and Natural Attractions in Uganda
It’s no secret that wildlife viewing is one of the top things to do in Uganda. Uganda is home to 10 national parks and 13 wildlife reserves! There have been over 300 species of mammals and over 1,000 species of birds recorded living in Uganda—including everything from lions, elephants, gorillas, and chimpanzees to vultures and African eagles. Outdoor adventures are some of the most popular things to do in Uganda. Trust us when we say you won’t want to miss getting out there on this trip!
One of the greatest things to do in Uganda is to witness the majesty of its wildlife. These are some of the best places in the country to see these animals in a safe environment.
Uganda’s 10 National Parks Include:
- Queen Elizabeth National Park,
- Lake Mburo National Park
- Murchison Falls National Park — Uganda’s largest national park!
- Kidepo National Park
- Kibale Forest National Park
- Mount Elgon National Park,
- Rwenzori Mountains National Park
- Semuliki National Park
- Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
So how do you narrow down which are the best things to do in Uganda? We’ve got you covered with the top activities at the country’s best outdoor and wildlife destinations.
Hike the Trails Around the Famous Rwenzori Mountains
This park is extremely popular for wildlife spotting, including chimpanzee trekking and gorilla trekking—taking a hike specifically to view these primates. Mountain gorillas, chimpanzees, forest hogs, elephants, and even leopards call this land home.
Choose your own adventure from high altitude hikes above 4,000 meters (~13,000 feet) or low altitude hikes below 4,000 meters. Yeah—these are some high peaks! High altitude treks can take anywhere from 4-12 days, whereas low altitude treks typically last no longer than 4 days.
The fastest option to get yourself to Rwenzori Mountains National Park is by air, and by booking a private tour on a direct chartered flight from Kampala. The flight only takes between 90-120 minutes, so you’ll save a lot of driving time if you choose this option.
From the capital city of Kampala, Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a 4-6 hour drive depending on which route you take. The slightly longer, more popular route through Masaka and Mbarara to Kasese offers travelers a chance to stop and visit the Equator and experience the sensation of stepping between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. If you have the time near Mbarara, make a pit stop to check out the huge populations of zebra, buffalo, hippo, and hyena at nearby Lake Mburo.
Trek to see Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
No doubt that seeing gorillas is a favorite among things to do in Uganda. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is located in western Uganda on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has gorilla trekking tours that can be enjoyed here year-round—though the best months to do so are June, July, and August. Over 400 mountain gorillas were reported to be living in the park as of 2019. So yeah—you’re almost guaranteed a gander at these amazing creatures!
We recommend giving this book a read for a life-changingly detailed story of The Impenetrable Forest:
Booking a tour here means getting to witness the majesty of the family of gorillas that lives here. Visitors will be briefed by Uganda Wildlife Authorities about the specific patterns of the animals they’ll encounter before setting out on their gorilla trekking adventure. Creep through the forest with your tour for this once-in-a-lifetime experience with gorillas!
See Wildlife in the Remote Kidepo Valley National Park
With over 75 species of mammals and nearly 500 bird species, Kidepo Valley National Park is another pristine place for wildlife viewing in Uganda. Known as the most isolated park in the country, Kidepo Valley is still accessible and absolutely worth booking a tour.
In addition to being one of the best birding destinations in all of Africa, nature walks at Kidepo Valley are known for excellent lion and elephant viewing opportunities. Herds of as many as 1,000 buffalo can also be seen, along with more cheetahs every year.
As rewarding as driving through Uganda’s unspoiled wilderness can be, in the interest of time the best way to get to Kidepo Valley is by booking air transport. Domestic airlines operate chartered flights to the park and leave from the city of Entebbe, just a short drive—about an hour—outside of Kampala.
Track Big Cats in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Is seeing big cats of Africa on your bucket list of things to do in Uganda? Queen Elizabeth National Park is the place to see some serious growl power. In addition to bird watching and boat cruises, this park offers the opportunity to view some of the most elusive wild animals in the country. Here you’ll have the chance to see felines like tree climbing lions and leopards, and the more nocturnal civet, genal and serval cats which can be better seen on night safaris.
Trek with Chimpanzees in Kyambura Gorge
Kyambura Gorge lies on the eastern side of Queen Elizabeth National Park and is known as the “Valley of Apes” because of the unique population of chimpanzees that live here. The gorge is like an underground tropical forest, about 100 meters deep and thick with vegetation.
Researchers report only sixteen chimpanzees still living in this area, and you better believe it’s worth a visit to see them. Chimpanzee tracking the gorge hiking trails on a private tour is an unforgettable way to see these primates up close. Chimp treks and guided nature walks take you into the heart of the gorge where you’ll see firsthand how these primates spend their days.
The sunken rainforest surrounded by cliffs and dry desert is a unique landscape you won’t find anywhere else in Uganda, supporting a huge range of wildlife with more than 13 different habitats to explore.
Cruise the Kazinga Channel
The Kazinga Channel is probably the most well-known feature of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, featuring a wide channel linking Lake Edward and Lake George. The 25-mile-long waterway is known for the highest concentrations of hippos, crocodiles, buffalo, and elephants in the world, as well as countless birds. Talk about real-life Animal Kingdom! In fact, the Kazinga Channel is a “hippo hotspot,” with more than 2,000 hippos living in around 600 “bloats” or groups.
Bird lovers will also find the magic of the Kazinga irresistible, with opportunities to view rare bird species like pink-backed pelicans, yellow-billed storks, kingfishers, African spoonbills, and over 50 more.
A boat cruise down this natural waterway is a must for amazing wildlife viewing, and tours typically run twice a day in the morning and the afternoon, which are prime times for viewing these animals.
Stay in a Luxury Safari Lodge on Lake Victoria
If a safari isn’t on your list of things to do in Uganda, let us inspire you to add it. Add a little luxury to your adventure? We’re there! Find your relaxing oasis among the wild outdoors of Uganda, and kick back in comfort at gorgeous safari-centered resorts along Lake Victoria.
Along the lake lies several islands ripe for relaxation. Don’t miss the chance for a peaceful boat ride to the dreamy Ssese Islands boasting white sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and swaying palm trees for a place to catch your breath after all the adventures of Uganda.
Another major perk of staying on Lake Victoria? The world-famous River Nile begins its flow from south to the north here, winding more than 4,000 miles before its end where it empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
Best Time of Year Visit Uganda For Wildlife and Hiking
Wildlife viewing season reaches its peak in Uganda between June and August, and again from December to February. These are the dry seasons in this part of Africa, and conditions are good for hiking Uganda’s Rwenzori Mountains and making the trek to see animals like gorillas and chimpanzees. Remember to carefully plan your hot weather hiking gear!
These same time frames are also the best months of the year for hikers and backpackers to visit Uganda since the dry season is usually free of extreme weather or monsoons. July is the coolest month of the year in Uganda, with average temperatures in the mid-70s F most days.
Ready to Explore Magical Uganda?
Lions, gorillas, and chimps—oh my! Experience the once-in-a-lifetime awe that an adventure-oriented trip to Uganda brings. At Explorer Chick, we’ve custom tailored your trip to be everything you’ve imagined for an African adventure—and more!
Explorer Chick’s guided tour to Uganda Safari and Hiking Adventures includes accommodations at a five-star luxury safari lodge, equipped with all the dreamy amenities like multiple pools, terraces with views of Lake Victoria, and outdoor tubs perfect for soaking after the day’s activities.
You’ll hop on chartered flights to Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley National Parks, lace up your boots to trek through the trails of the Rwenzori Mountains, and boat cruise the Kazinga Channel spotting wildlife left and right, and trying not to lose your sh*t with your new adventure gal pals doing the same.
Ready to romp with us? Check out Explorer Chick’s expertly curated adventure vacations for women!
Meet the Writer
April is an adventure lover and freelance writer based in New England, with a passion for public lands, wild places, and all things outdoors. She loves camping in any form and spends as many weekends as she can hiking New Hampshire’s highest peaks, or road-tripping with her sweet dog Marley. If not in the mountains, you can find her planning her next expedition or caring for one of her far-too-many-houseplants.
Favorite outdoor adventure: National Parks Hiking and Road Trips!
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