Home of Mountain Gorillas and lush tropical rainforests. Uganda tends to be overshadowed by its famous next door neighbour Kenya, yet it offers a wealth of experience for the eco tourist eager to take on a something challenging.
If you’ve seen the movie Gorillas in the Mist and have always wanted to experience these impressive creatures up close for yourself…here’s your chance! Gorilla safaris are the number one Eco activity in Uganda. Other popular green activities include: Chimpanzee safaris, bungee jumping, forest walking, bird watching, bush camping, mountain climbing, mountain biking and white water rafting.
There are plenty of Eco tour operators offering their services but before booking make sure the company is registered by the Government. Uganda’s ecotourism policies began in earnest around the mid 1990’s and great efforts have been made to protect the national parks and forest reserves. Further efforts include promoting environmentally friendly accommodation to attract responsible tourists. Green Accommodation in the National parks is particularly easy to find and they range from lodges, chalets and students’ hostels to bandas and campsites.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has a great website to help ensure you have the greenest holiday.
Getting around Uganda by bus is easy and cheap although expect the bus to be crowded and noisy. Most people share a taxi van, which is actually quite a green option as these are not at all like we conceive taxis to be, where just one passenger might be aboard. Instead a taxi van sticks to a certain route and picks up anybody along the way who wants to join the ride. It is more like sharing a mini bus on the way to a carnival!
Uganda sits near the Equator and as a tropical country, it is generally very wet. It does have two dry seasons which are December to February and June to August. Naturally these are the optimum times to visit. Further towards the northeast the climate becomes more arid.
The capital city of Uganda is Kampala a bustling metropolis crammed with people and cars. You’ll want to head straight for the countryside to see the real Uganda, thankfully lacking in McDonalds!
About 5 hrs from the capital is the Queen Elizabeth national park situated in the western region of the Great Rift Valley. It is famous for its diverse eco system including tropical forests, crater lakes, swamps, meadows and savannah. This attracts wildlife from leopard, hyena, elephant, buffalo and hippo to tree-climbing lions! Just south of Queen Elizabeth national park lies Lake Mburo, a breathtaking scene awaits the traveller who makes the effort to get there. Lake Mburo is actually a collection of five different lakes, and here you’ll see plenty of zebra and eland.
Jinja is the second largest city in Uganda and home to the source of the Nile river, the majestic Victoria lake, the largest tropical lake in the world.
Fort Portal is a most appealing place with extensive tea plantations, in a mighty fine setting, boasting great architecture and dominated by the impressive Mount Rwenzori which looms over the land with its massive presence, some 5200 metres above sea level. Here you’ll find a very popular eco destination, the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary.
Home to 8 primate species, over 200 bird species and exotic reptiles, all in a stunning setting graced by the weirdest trees and shrubs you’ll ever see.
At Pakwach there was once a British rail line that ended here and trains came from Mombasa, now the town is not as busy as in its heyday but still worth a visit. Here you’ll find the west bank of the Albert Nile.
Kisoro is the nearest town to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park features the Virungas which are a chain of six extinct volcanoes. Meet the golden monkeys that inhabit the forest and be dazzled by the amazing birdlife. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the number one destination for Gorilla safaris as half of the world’s population can be found here. This place is home to one of the most biologically diverse forests in Africa. A visit here is truly a once in a lifetime experience, do not forget to bring a camera or you will end up kicking yourself.
Uganda is a feast for the eyes and the soul, delivering an experience like no other on this earth. For the responsible tourist it offers the chance to sample true wilderness and support conservation.
Photo By hjallig Flickr