Uganda is often referred to the as ‘Pearl of Africa’, and for good reason.
The diversity and safari experience on offer is simply extraordinary, whether you want to trek for gorillas and chimpanzees in dense highland forest, hop on a game drive vehicle to find lions, buffalos and elephants in thorn tree savannahs, or boat through vast papyrus beds in search of the elusive and remarkable shoebill stork. From snow-topped glacial peaks to steamy swampland, this amazing country has it all.
Uganda is a veritable paradise for bird-watchers (almost 1,100 species) and primate-watchers (13 diurnal and six nocturnal species). No matter where your interest lies, there is always something for everyone on safari in Uganda.
Uganda is small by African standards, and yet driving from the capital city Kampala in the east to the highlands of the west can make for a long day on those potholed roads, especially if you stop at the many roadside attractions and delights, or simply gaze in wonder at the scenery as it unfolds. And why rush when there is so much on offer?
This landlocked country is exceptionally fertile (thanks to the black volcanic soil), as evident by the heavily farmed green hills outside of protected areas, with vast tea plantations being especially prevalent in the highland areas. Water makes up 25% of the country’s surface, with Lake Victoria dominating.
Accommodation in rural Uganda is usually modest guesthouses, B&Bs and camp sites – with prime tourist destinations also offering luxury lodges. Kampala and Entebbe offer all ranges of accommodations, from luxury hotels and boutique guesthouses to budget guesthouses and everything in between.
The Nile River – the longest river in the world
For followers of the great explorers of the mid-1800’s, Uganda played host to determined efforts to find the source of the complex Nile River. These days, it is now generally accepted that the source is at the point where the river exits Lake Victoria at Jinja in the east of the country.
Forming the upper section of the Nile River is the Victoria Nile river that flows across Uganda in a north-westerly direction before plunging over Murchison Falls and entering Lake Albert in the west of the country. Lake Albert is fed by run-off from the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains, or ‘Mountains of the Moon’, bordering Uganda and DR Congo. At this stage, the river is called the Albert Nile, which then exits Lake Albert and heads north through South Sudan and into Sudan, where it is joined by the Blue Nile (flowing from its source, Lake Tana, in Ethiopia) to form the Nile, the world’s longest river at 6,850 km.
When to go to Uganda
Uganda straddles the equator and therefore experiences small annual fluctuations in temperature. Much of the country is at a high altitude, leading to cool average temperatures. Rainfall varies seasonally, with higher rainfall in April/May and October/November.
Our advice is to avoid visiting during the periods of heavy rain, and to pack plenty of protective gear for your camera equipment, even during the ‘drier’ periods.
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Travel diary: My 16 day Ugandan safari, arranged by Africa Geographic
Photo gallery: Our 2015 Photographer of the Year celebrates UgandaSafaris in the area