Uganda – The Pearl of Africa, as Sir Winston Churchill called it when he visited it is a relatively unexplored holiday destination. Located in Eastern Africa and bordered by Kenya on the east, South Sudan to the north, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, and the Republic of Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania to the south. Uganda provides tourists with a varied range of ecosystems – from the verdant forests to the arid savannahs, the soaring mountain ranges to the flowing waterfalls, and placid lakes to the lofty volcanoes – both dormant and active. In addition to this, Uganda is host to a variety of tribes and their cultural diversity is a veritable treat for the eyes!
We have narrowed down 10 of the most interesting reasons for you to visit Uganda.
Hiking and Mountaineering in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is located in Western Uganda and is adjoining the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They soar above the surrounding landscape and are home to six major peaks. In CE 150, Alexandrian geographical researcher Pletomy described these mountains as “Mountains of the Moon”. Despite being close to the Equator, these mountains are an intriguing mixture of rich, green forests and snow-capped peaks and the terrain is dotted with waterfalls, glaciers, snowfields, lakes and lush forests which are home to a variety of fauna and flora some of which are even endangered.
The landscape undergoes a gradual but steady change as you scale its heights. It goes from acres of coffee plantations at the foothills and you will be spell-bound to watch the swathes of lush coffee plantations to rich, green tropical forests in the mountains and finally to the jagged snow-covered peaks whose breathtaking views will leave you stunned into silence.
Birdwatching in the Rwenzori Mountains
The wide range of wildlife and vegetation in the mountain range would be a delight for everyone. It’s particularly a delight for bird-watchers as Uganda is home to 217 species of birds and is said to be one of the important bird-watching areas in the world. Among the many birds spotted are the Long-eared Owl, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, Strange Weaver, Archers’ Robin-chat, Rwenzori Batis, and others.
Hot Springs in Kitagata
Who doesn’t like a little magic to cure their ailments? How many times have you suffered from the infernal common cold for ages together? Well, apparently these hot springs in Uganda have healing abilities and lying down in the water and drinking from the springs will cure you of your ailments.
The hot springs Mulago and Kitagata, located in Kitagata are said to have healing properties and locals say that people with physical ailments take a dip in the water to get cured. It is said to be as busy as a hospital – and sometimes even more so – where people admit and discharge themselves after treatment. There are around 800 visitors every day who come from all across the country and range from the littlest of kids to the oldest of adults.
Wild Safaris on Foot in Lake Mburo National Park
Bored of the traditional safaris in crowded, noisy buses and small gypsies? Worry not, as safaris in Lake Mburo National Park (also called ‘Home for Zebras’) are also conducted on foot now. That’s right, you can now watch the Impala, Burchell’s Zebra, Eland antelope and several acacia-related birds while walking and running along with them. Talk about convenience, eh?
Gorilla Tracking at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Chimpanzee Tracking at Kibale National Park
If a wildlife safari foot is too tame, there is always an option for you to court excitement by tracking gorillas. So for all those of you who love the adrenaline rush, run to the Uganda Wildlife Authority in Kampala and pre-book your permit. This park said to be the smallest and most scenic national park in the country and is a part of the Parc de Virungas comprised of a chain of nine active and dormant volcanoes. This chain runs long the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo and sometimes, the gorillas might cross the political boundaries too (exciting right?).
The Bwindi Forest is home to roughly half the world’s mountain gorillas population and is divided into four zones for tracking gorillas. It’s the oldest in tracking gorillas and is sure to provide you with the most exciting chase ever! Permits will have to be taken beforehand to ensure you can do the activity on the date of your choice as a maximum of 8 people are allowed to track one gorilla group per day.
Kibale National Park is most famous for its wide range of primates and is exceptionally well-known for chimpanzee tracking. You will be required to take prior permission form the Uganda Wildlife Authority as they permit a limited number of people in the morning and afternoon sessions. As if tracking gorillas wasn’t exciting enough, you can now track chimpanzees too!
Volcano Climbing at Mt Elgon, Sabinyo and Mgahiga
If mountain climbing isn’t adventurous enough for you, volcano climbing might be the activity you’re looking for. These volcanoes can be climbed in treks lasting from two hours to a day or two. The rugged beauty of the volcanoes will leave you itching to conquer their heights and what’s more? You can also meet some tribes on the way!
These are a cluster of islands on Lake Victoria and provide a great range of fun activities. They offer many opportunities like monkey tracking, bird-watching and a range of outdoor activities. You can reach these islands through a hand paddled traditional Uganda boat.
Kampala and Kasubi Royal Tombs
A visit to East Africa’s happiest city is mandatory when in Uganda. The city offers a range of activities- from lakes and parks to tombs and palaces, and you can let your hair down by partying at the various clubs here too! 5 kilometers south-west to the city of Kampala, lie the Kasubi Royal Tombs. Five kings are resting under the roof of a gigantic dome-shaped grass thatched house known as Muzibu Azaala Mpanga. This site records a footfall of more than 50,000 visitors each year.
Murchison National Park and Murchison Falls
Located in the park, these falls make way for a placid, gently flowing river from a swift, and fast-flowing river with rapids and rift valleys. This stretch of river attracts elephants, giraffes and buffalos while hippopotamus and Nile crocodile can be spotted all around the year.
Uganda’s most valuable treasure are probably its people. The rich and varied heritage of Uganda can be experienced in a host of cultural tours and is a true delight for the eyes. Uganda is home to 30 different languages and a host of tribes with a varied taste in handicrafts, music, and art.
If you’re looking for an authentic African experience filled with exciting wildlife safaris, chimpanzee or gorilla tracking, cultural tours and many such experiences, look no further than The Pearl of Africa – Uganda.