10 Best Reasons to Visit Uganda

Looking for the top 10 best reasons to visit Uganda?

Welcoming you to Uganda on arrival at Entebbe main airport are the peaceful blue waters of Lake Victoria – a symbol that immerses you in the natural beauty, adventure and leisure. Uganda’s Kampala capital city seats just 38 sq. km away from the shores where business thrives most and the city gives access to several sites that will introduce you to cultural heritage, lots of restaurants and nightlife. The tropical landlocked country at the equator in East Africa went through civil wars after independence on 9th October 1962. But since 1986, Kampala remained a safe capital even though the northern region of Uganda had war in the late 1990s, peace has reigned placing the country as one of the safest destinations to travel to for safari in Africa. The people are friendly to those who embrace diversity out of which the nation was born. Mwanga the King of the Buganda Kingdom signed the agreement with the British Empire that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Uganda Protectorate in 1894. Most people speak English the official language along with Luganda and Swahili.

Nature and culture are the backbone of Uganda’s economy and 70% of the 34 million people (Population & Housing Census 2014) heavily depend on organic agriculture that sustains life in rural areas. In particular, the wildlife resources are protected across the 10 national parks, 12 wildlife reserves, 13 Wildlife Sanctuaries and 5 Community Wildlife Management Areas. The things that make Uganda the Pearl of Africa are many and you may want to know some of them in the following 10 reasons to visit Uganda.

1- Trekking in Search of Mountain Gorillas and Chimpanzees

A small group of visitors trekking towards gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

This is one of the best Eco-tourism experiences and for a good cause gorilla trekking is expensive in Rwanda and Uganda for money generated maintains the work to protect the endangered species and to benefit the economy for future generations. Uganda has 459 gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest which is almost half of the 1063 world mountain gorilla population. Besides, there’s Mgahinga home to the Virunga gorilla and the endangered golden monkey and Kibale Forest National Park alone is famous for harbouring 12 primate species including chimpanzees, grey-cheeked mangabeys, and blue monkeys among others. And the best part comes to life when people finally trek on foot without following any path through tropical rainforests such as Bwindi Impenetrable to see gorillas at a close range of 7 meters.

You would be lucky to find a place where you’re likely to see gorillas as well as chimps and many monkeys. From golden monkeys in Mgahinga to chimps, which are not expensive to see making primate tours in Uganda affordable for many travellers.

2- White Water Rafting in the Mighty Nile River

The longest of all rivers, the Nile originates from Lake Victoria in Jinja district eastern Uganda flowing northwards to the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the source of life as well as adventure activities and relaxation and Murchison falls is the “World’s Strongest Waterfalls.” In particular, Jinja city provides adventurous activities such as Grade V white water rafting and calm water sliding, bungee jumping. If spending time outdoors is your goal, you should visit Uganda. Hope to find zip lining, abseiling, guided runs, rock climbing, cycling, quad biking, and fishing, which are found at several places such as Mabira forest, Lake Bunyonyi and Kapchorwa the land of Uganda’s running champions.

3- Untouched Nature Hiking Trails

Hiking in Rwenzori beautiful Kilembe trail

One of the main best reasons to visit Uganda is its fabulous nature. The volcanic and block mountains in Uganda vary in altitude from the snowcapped Rwenzori Ranges at 5109 m to the Virunga massifs at 3473m. Thus, you can find hard and easy hiking trails to explore the natural habitats, scenery, wildlife and culture. While conquering Mount Stanley’s Margherita peak (the tallest peak in Uganda) is technical, the Moroto, Kadam and Murongole dry volcanic ranges in north-east Uganda provide trails for people that live in the flattest countries of the world. Hiking in Uganda mostly is done within mountain national parks such as Mount Elgon, Mgahinga Gorilla and Rwenzori. However, hikes can be done in many ways from village visits where indigenous tribes such as Batwa pygmies will accompany waterfalls and walking safari in the African bush in Lake Mburo, Pian Upe wildlife reserve and Ishasha wilderness. You ought to discover many things about Uganda whilst exploring its mountains. Hikers in the parks must have a guide but self-guided trails are available too. There are more reasons to visit Uganda, don’t miss them.

4- The Variety of Tours in Uganda

Not sure what to do when you visit Uganda, the tour ideas are many when searched through the right medium. The quality of trips varies when you take into account the diversity of Uganda’s travel offers. Especially when trip budgets don’t work out as needed, look for alternatives, and ask for recommendations to widen your search for the tour at the heart. Often this is the same for those intending to come for business, work or live in Uganda. Private tours are in fact affordable and make up the difference of having a guide or friend with you throughout. – Uganda safari experience through the eyes of a local. A safari in Uganda long or short can cover a wide range of experiences besides just visiting parks for wildlife. Besides, there are volunteer opportunities for investment in the diversification of tourism products.

5- Visit Uganda for a “Rural Africa experience”

Deserted Karamojong Manyattas due to resistant drought.

Over 72% of Ugandans live and work in rural areas as smallholder farmers who produce food mainly for home consumption. Obviously, as people go about their daily chores you will watch some of the untold sights and sounds and smells of rural Africa. In fact, this is the most important northeast Uganda safari experience. Though some sights might occur in urban areas, you ought to go off the beaten path. The Karamoja plains in northeast Uganda where the IK people–the smallest tribe of Uganda still survive in the Morungole Mountains close to South Sudan. The Karamojong people too are keen on preserving their traditional ways of life and remain almost unaffected by western civilization to the extent that people work only for the stomach and still prefer to stay in traditional settings. Karamoja stands out with its landscape, Karamoja breakfast, and people – this village should be one of the 44 tourism villages initiative @UNWTO best tourism villages 2021 – to safe culture and heritage.

6- Isolated wilderness areas, Lakes and islands

Savanna elephants in the Narus Valley, Kidepo National Park.

The Kidepo National Park welcomes you to one of Africa’s secret safaris. The huge semiarid Narus valley provides habitats for tree-climbing lions, cheetahs, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, giraffes and over 500 species of birds.  Surrounding the valley are the dry volcanic hills that separate Uganda from South Sudan and Turkana from northwest Kenya. These mountain ranges are a must-see gem in East Africa with hikes for beginners. Situated far in the semiarid Karamoja plains north-east region, most of the locals and foreign visitors alike get intimidated by the journey. Apoka the headquarters of Kidepo is over 700 sq. km (11-hour drive including stops, north-west of Kampala city. But as a promise, the park will bestow the gift of peaceful wildlife viewing and tranquillity of the quiet countryside. Elsewhere, the 19 islands of Lake Bunyony in southwest Uganda are easier to access for your post-gorilla trek recovery so as Jinja, the beaches in Entebbe or Sesse islands on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Situated on a quiet hill overlooking Lake Victoria, Pineapple Guest House is one of the affordable yet fabulous choices of where to stay in Lake Victoria Uganda. It is only 10 minutes from Entebbe airport with free collection and drop-off. The cherry on top is the free buffet breakfast included in the room rate.

7- Diverse culture and Food

reasons to visit Uganda

Travellers who have visited Uganda confess that one of their main reasons to visit Uganda again is its diverse culture and food. More than 50 indigenous tribes are found in Uganda. Each group of people has got its unique ways of life, from art and dance to food. Expect to find some of Africa’s most stunning rituals that defy human understanding and ancient crafts still exist in the 21st century. From the crafts and metaphysics of bark cloth makers, and basket weaving to blacksmiths and herbalists. The cultural heritage and history of Uganda are well preserved in Kampala city home to the Uganda National Museum, and Nommo gallery (national art gallery) among several cultural sites such as the UNESCO world heritage site Kasubi Royal Tombs. Elsewhere, culture can be explored in many ways such as village walks around the national parks. Meeting the artists themselves opens the door to having a good conversation!

In fact, the 42 clans of the Buganda kingdom are inseparable from Matooke – the national dish from which Uganda Waragi is produced. With about 27 types of bananas grouped according to their taste, size and purpose, household plantations have remained still in urban areas despite being discouraged by the city authority. Try out local dishes such as Luwombo or just visit the markets to look at what’s local.  Don’t forget the street food such as Rolex, Kikomando and Mchomo (roasted meat) and Gonja – roasted bananas.

Our list of top 10 reasons to visit Uganda is not over yet. Keep reading!

8- Search for Tree climbing Lions

reasons to visit Uganda
Tree Climbing Lions – Ishasha Wilderness.

Tree-climbing lions are not a common sight on safari in Africa. Thankfully, Uganda has multiple national parks with the big cats exhibiting their habit of climbing fig trees in Ishasha wilderness Queen Elizabeth National Park. Recently, lions in Murchison Falls and Kidepo Valley National Parks have been spotted in trees. The big reason to visit Uganda for wildlife safaris, to game drives and boat cruises is mostly done in the 6 savanna-protected areas. Of course, each is unique, but the promise is getting to discover wildlife and nature in Uganda.

Getting as close as you can to wildlife is possible even the nocturnal leopards through special night game drives or predator tracking activity that supports lion conservation in Uganda. other big cats in Uganda include cheetahs (only in Kidepo), elephants, hippos, buffaloes, giraffes, Nile crocodiles and over 1070 species of birds including shoebill stork.

9- Bird watching

reasons to visit Uganda
Shoebill Stork Lake Albert, Toro-Semuliki Wildlife Reserve.

With over 1070 species of birds, it’s no secret why the grey crowned crane appears on the Uganda national flag and court of arms. The bird-watching trip experience alone is enough reason to visit Uganda. This resource is backed by professional and knowledgeable bird guides from Uganda that have led birding trips worldwide and the key to a successful Uganda birding safari is to get a better guide with you and go to specific birding sites. Semuliki National Park holds 40% of the tropical forest bird count in the country but most importantly the central African species such as Nkurengu rail, and pipping hornbill, which is hard to see in East or South Africa makes Uganda a must-visit for hard-core birding enthusiasts. More species endemic to the Albertine rift valley, the Virunga Massifs and the Rwenzori Mountains are found in Uganda. The special birds are the Grey crowned crane the national bird, the Shoebill stork and in Kidepo Valley National Park, which is part of the Somali-Masai Biome Zone.

10- Small towns

reasons to visit Uganda
Fort Portal road.

Get more out of a visit to Uganda through the small towns, which are just stopover points for many travellers on the road trip. While Kampala city and Entebbe are good for city tours, some of the upcoming cities such as Fort Portal, Jinja, and Kabale on their own provide things to do, best day trips and tours, and lodging options for budget independent travellers. Mbale city and Kasese sit at the base of the Elgon and Rwenzori Mountains Ranges respectively might be a perfect place for adventurers. The way of living in these towns might not be different but the atmosphere there will reveal more to you about the things you think didn’t exist and the people and culture of Uganda in general. And local people in rural small towns of Uganda are more open to talking to strangers.

What do you think about this list of 10 best reasons to visit Uganda? Let us know in the comments section.

Elly Tumwesiga
Elly Tumwesiga

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Tourism from Makerere University, Kampala Uganda and have been working since 2015 with several Destination Management companies. Also, Uganda Tourism Board recognizes our existence. The journey of travel writing started with just producing content. Learning to craft good English has been the most challenging part as discovering the soul of my job by reading a lot of books by American writers got me into the habit to keep reading and not forgetting people who correct my articles.

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