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  More about Uganda
Size: 243,000 km2/90,348 sq mi.
Population: Approx. 20 million.
Capital: Kampala.
Highest peak: 5,109 m/16,762 ft (Mount Stanley).
Neighbouring countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.
Languages: (official:) English, (others spoken:) Swahili, tribal languages.
  Planning your tour
Visa and entry rules
To enter Uganda, a visa is required for citizens of countries that require visas for Ugandan visitors. You can obtain a visa at Ugandan missions/embassies abroad, or at the main ports of entry to the country, such as Entebbe International Airport (EBB/HUEN).
You also need a valid passport and a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Currency
The local currency, Ugandan shillings (UGX), can only be exchanged in Uganda. Exchange bureaus are found in towns and cities, and at the international airport. Bring USD to exchange. Older USD bills may not be accepted.
Don't depend on using bank or credit cards. They are not widely accepted.
Vaccinations and health
Consult a doctor or vaccination clinic in good time before travelling, to make sure you have appropriate vaccinations and malaria protection.
Vaccinations often recommended include diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and hepatitis A. Some visitors may, in addition, need vaccinations for typhoid fever, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, cholera and/or rabies. Malaria is present in most or all parts of the country. HIV/AIDS is widespread.
Bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, can be present in freshwater in lakes or slow rivers. Avoid drinking, bathing, wading or washing in such water
To enter Uganda, you need a yellow fever vaccination certificate.
Luggage
You may bring the same kind of clothes and equipment as for safaris in Kenya and Tanzania. See Luggage och Luggage list for safaris. You need a good pair of boots for gorilla and chimpanzee trekking.
Languages
English is the official language. Other languages spoken are Swahili (which works fine in most areas) and some 30 different tribal languages.
Time
Local time is GMT + 3 hours.
Electricity
240 V 50 Hz for British 3-pin plugs with rectangular pins.
Phone
The international dialing code for Uganda is +256.
Airports
Entebbe International Airport (EBB/HUEN) is south of Kampala.
Traffic and driving
Driving in Uganda is on the left side of the road. You need an international driving license to drive.
  More web sites
Uganda
By Uganda Tourist Board.
Visas
By Ugandan ministry of internal affairs.
Mountain gorilla
By African Wildlife Fundation.
  Glossary
Safari glossary
Opens in a new window.
 
 
Planning your safari:
Uganda
Uganda is situated in East Africa, where it borders two prime safari countries: Kenya and Tanzania. Also Uganda has an interesting nature and a good wildlife. It is best known for its mountain gorillas, inhabiting the dense mountain forests in two national parks in the south-west. Many of the Ugandan parks are in fact forested, making them good areas for monkeys. (Uganda has more monkey species than Kenya and Tanzania, which have less forest.) Map of Africa Namibia Botswana South Africa Zambia Mozambique Malawi Rwanda Tanzania Kenya Uganda
 
There are also savanna parks, where classic African wildlife can be found, including giraffes, lions, hippos, zebras and others. Both the bird life and the flora are very rich in species.

The country
Uganda is situated on the African inland plateau, in a transition zone between the eastern savannas and the south-western rainforests. Northern Uganda borders Sudan and has a much drier landscape, but some wildlife can still be found in these areas. To the east lies 4,300 m/14,108 ft high Mount Elgon, to the west the Rwenzori Mountains, where Mount Stanley reaches 5 109 m/16,762 ft above sea level and is the third highest mountain in Africa. The Rwenzori Mountains are 'the Mountains of the Moon', searched for by explorers during the 1800's in their quest for the source of the Nile River.

The Western Rift, which is the western arm of the East African Great Rift Valley, follows Uganda's western border (facing Congo), and Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, is found in the south-east, where it is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. This is the lake that the explorers mentioned were looking for; the Nile River begins at Jinja Town at the northern tip of Lake Victoria, and flows north through Uganda.

The country has a good number of rivers, lakes and wetlands. The landscape ranges from dry scrub, savanna and grassland to lowland forest, mountain forest and alpine moorland.

The safari destination Uganda
It is relatively easy for safari-goers to visit Uganda. A safari industry with established tour operators and a fair transports infrastructure allow for visits to parks and wildlife areas throughout the country. The most remote parks may be accessed by air instead of spending several days on the road.

There are hotels, lodge and tented camp offering the full range from basic to luxury accommodation. Less expensive accommodation, such as camping and bandas, is also available. The international airport in Entebbe (40 km/25 mi south of the capital Kampala) has connections to for example London and Brussels in Europe, and to for example Nairobi in Kenya and Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. That is, you may combine for example gorilla trekking in Uganda with a safari in the prime parks of the neighbouring countries, or with a beach holiday on the Kenyan coast or Zanzibar.

Uganda was a good safari destination during the 1950's and 1960's, but lost its tourism during the 1970's, when the country suffered dictatorship and internal unrest. The infrastructure degenerated, and the wildlife was depleted.

Since the mid 1980's, when the country had begun stabilizing, the tourist industry has been rebuilt and the nature and wildlife has recovered. There are now ten national parks and a number of other nature protected areas, allowing visitors to experience a beautiful nature and a good wildlife. There are good opportunities for traditional safaris, gorilla and chimpanzee tours, bird watching and trekking. Any travel company or travel agent specialized in tours to East Africa should be able to offer packaged or tailored tours to Uganda.

Mountain gorillas
The mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) is close to extinction. A small population of less than 1,000 individuals still survives in the mountain forests of south-western Uganda, north-western Rwanda and eastern Congo.

There are two gorilla populations: one in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Uganda, and one shared by Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (Uganda), Volcano National Park (Rwanda) and Virunga National Park (Kongo), a combined area of some 300 km2/115 sq mi. Each of these populations are estimated to between 300 and 400 gorillas. Their life and future is threatened by deforestation, by hunting for bushmeat and macabre souvenirs, and by diseases.

Savanna parks
The savanna type safari parks (where you may see species such as zebras, giraffes and lions) of Uganda can't compare with the prime parks of Tanzania or Kenya, such as Serengeti and Masai Mara as to wildlife. The Ugandan parks have fewer visitors, though, and may offer a more serene experience.

The forested parks of Uganda offer many monkeys (while Kenya and Tanzania are not very good for monkeys). Several areas are also inhabited by chimpanzees, or by mammals that are very rare in the neighbouring countries, such as sitatunga and kob.

Bird watching
Uganda has many types of nature, i.e. many different habitats for birds, and the birding opportunities are very good. More than 1,000 species have been recorded in the country.

Uganda map. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Queen Elizabeth National Park Murchison Falls National Park Kibale Forest National Park Kidepo Valley National Park Lake Mburu National Park Mount Elgon National Park Semliki National Park Mount Rwenzori National Park Kampala Entebbe Jinja

Parks in Uganda
Uganda has 10 national parks and many other nature protected areas and reserves.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (330 km2/127 sq mi) is situated in south-western Uganda and is one of the country's two gorilla parks. It borders the Western Rift, and is 7–8 hours' drive from Kampala.

The park's main attraction is of course the mountain gorillas. A few groups of gorillas may be visited, and are found in a demanding mountain terrain; the park's altitude varies from 1,150 m/3,773 ft to 2,600 m/8,530 ft. There are also lower forests that are home to chimpanzees (Bwindi is said to be the only park in Africa where you may see both gorillas and chimpanzees). The gorillas are estimated to be 300 individuals, while the chimpanzees are between 350 and 400.

Some 100 mammal species, including seven different monkeys, have been recorded in the park. These are mainly smaller mammal species, though, as Bwindi isn't a traditional safari park. About 350 bird species, 200 butterfly species and more than 300 tree species have also been recorded.

Apart from gorilla trekking tours, there are routes for guided day tours through forests where you may see monkeys, forest antelopes, rivers and waterfalls. Most rain falls from March to April and from September to November.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (34 km2/13 sq mi) is a small park in south-western Uganda, on the border to Congo and Rwanda. Besides Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, it's the only park in the country where you may see mountain gorillas. It's a mountainous area, comprising three volcanoes with a number of peaks: Mount Sabinyo (3,700 m/12,139 ft), Mount Mgahinga (3,475 m/11,401 ft) and Mount Muhavura (4,125 m/13,533 ft).

Much of the park is covered in rainforest and bamboo forest, and one of the gorilla groups living here, the nyakagezi group, may be visited. Other animals seen are elephants, African buffalos, monkeys and a number of bird species.

The park has two rainy seasons: from February to May, and from September to December. The travel time by road from Kampala is 8 hours. You may also get there by air.

Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park (1,980 km2/764 sq mi) is Uganda's most popular safari park. It is situated along the Western Rift in western Uganda, on the equator south of the Rwenzori Mountains. Lake Edward and Lake George that border the park have many crocodiles and hippos.

600 bird species
The altitude varies from 900 m/2,950 ft to 1,850 m/6,070 ft. The landscape has lowland forests, woodlands, grass plains, lakes, wetlands and rivers. Some 600 bird species have been recorded, which is the highest number of any park in East Africa. Shoebill, African skimmer and black bee-eater are some highly interesting species seen. The mammal wildlife includes chimpanzees, leopards, elephants, kobs and other species, and the remote southern parts of the park are known for its tree-climbing lions.

The travel time by road from Kampala is 5–6 hours.

Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is the largest park in Uganda (close to 4,000 km2/1,550 sq mi). Together with the neighbouring reserves Bugungu and Karuma Falls, it covers a large and rich wildlife area in north-western Uganda, bordering Lake Albert close to the border to Congo.

Murchison Falls is dominated by savannas, woodlands and gallery forests. The Victoria Nile flows through the park, and an impressive waterfall where the river hurls through a narrow gap has given the park its name.

The wildlife includes large herds of elephants, lions, leopards, African buffalos, antelopes, rothschild giraffes, hippos and crocodiles. The forest reserves bordering Murchison Falls have populations of chimpanzees, red-tailed monkeys and black-and-white colobus monkeys. There are many bird species, and the river offers fishing for two interesting game fish, the Nile perch and the tiger fish.

The travel time by road from Kampala is 6 hours.

Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is 3–4 hours by road from Kampala and covers 550–750 km2/210–290 sq mi (the specifications vary). Three quarters are covered by forests and rainforests, and the rest mainly by grasslands and wetlands. The park's altitude varies from 1,100 m/3,600 ft to 1,600 m/5,250 ft.

300 bird species have been recorded in Kibale Forest, and 60 mammals, including lion, leopard and sitatunga (a wetland antelope). Game viewing in forested parks is always difficult, though, and your best chances are seeing smaller mammals such as mongoose and monkeys. The latter are represented by a number of species, such as black-and-white colobus, olive baboon, red-tailed monkey, grey-cheeked mangabey and L'Hoest's monkey. There is also a large chimpanzee population. Guided tours for tracking and visiting chimpanzee groups are offered.

Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is situated in northmost Uganda, which borders southern Sudan and north-western Kenya. The park covers 1,450 km2/560 sq mi of mountains and valleys, scrubs, savannas, woodlands and mountain forests. Its altitude varies from 900 m/2,950 ft to 2,750 m/9,020 ft. Most wildlife is seen in the south-western parts of the park, where the altitudes are lower.

Heavy poaching during the second half of the 1900's reduced the wildlife populations, and some species were lost altogether, including beisa oryx, lesser kudu and Grant's gazelle. Other species have recovered, such as elephant, zebra, African buffalo, reedbuck, giraffe, waterbuck and hartebeest. Hyaenas, lions, leopards and jackals are regularly observed, while other predators, such as bat-eared foxes, caracals and cheetahs, are seen less often. More than 450 bird species have been recorded. There are also many reptiles.

Getting there by road means driving for 12 hours or more from Kampala, which in practice means more than one day. Four-wheel drive is required. An option is flying there in 1.5 hours.

Lake Mburu National Park
Lake Mburu National Park (260 km2/100 sq mi) is situated in southern Uganda, 3–4 hours by road from Kampala. There are undulating grasslands, lakeshores, galley forests along the waterways, wetlands and valleys covered in acacias. 300 bird species have been recorded in the park, where you may also see zebras, impalas, elands, African buffalos, hippos and other mammals. You may explore the park by car, on foot or from a boat on the lake, where you may encounter crocodiles.

Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon, straddling the border between eastern Uganda and western Kenya, is the fourth highest mountain (4,321 m/14,177 ft) in Africa. It is an interesting nature area rather than a safari or wildlife area, even if there are monkeys, African buffalos, forest antelopes and leopards in the park.

Mount Elgon National Park covers 1,150 km2/444 sq mi, which has mountain forests, bamboo forests and afro-alpine moorland, where macro vegetation such as the giant lobelia may be seen. The bird life is rich and, like the vegetation, varies with altitude. The lammergeir, a huge vulture, may be seen.

Visitors come to walk the park, watch the wildlife and flora, enjoy waterfalls, hot springs and caves, and scale the peaks, which doesn't require any proper climbing.

Semliki National Park
Semliki National Park (220 km2/85 sq mi) is situated in western Uganda, 6–8 hours' drive from Kampala. The road is poor and requires four-wheel drive, and the park itself lacks most facilities for visitors.

Much of the park is forested, and you will not only need your pair of binoculars, but also a machete. Some mammals can be seen, such as elephants and many monkeys, including grey-cheeked mangabey, black-and-white colobus, olive baboon, black-faced vervet monkey, red-tailed monkey, mona monkey and blue monkey. There are also chimpanzees, but these apes are rarely seen. 400 bird species have been recorded.

Mount Rwenzori National Park
Mount Rwenzori National Park (1,000 km2/390 sq mi) is bordering Congo in western Uganda. The Rwenzori Mountains is a 120 km/75 mi long mountain range, which unlike the other high mountains in East Africa isn't volcanic. The altitudes within the park vary from 1,700 m/5,577 ft to 5,109 m/16,762 ft. The highest point is Mount Stanley, the third highest mountain in Africa.

The vegetation is mainly mountain forest, which is replaced by bamboo forests and afro-alpine moorland as altitudes increase. Some 200 bird species have been recorded, and mammals such as chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus monkeys, leopards and elephants inhabit the forests. The park is not very good for game viewing, but is rather a destination for bird watching and trekking.

Other nature areas of interest
Uganda has not only national parks, but also many nature protected areas and reserves, such as Semliki Valley Wildlife Reserve, which thanks to its landscape and vegetation has many mammal and bird species. Other such areas are known for its nature or conservation projects, for example Matheniko Wildlife Reserve, Bokora Wildlife Reserve, Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve, Ajai Wildlife Reserve, Asws-Lolin Wildlife Reserve, Katongo Wildlife Reserve and Kyambura Wildlife Reserve.

Cities and towns
Kampala
Kampala is the capital of Uganda, and is situated some 40 km/25 mi north of the country's international airport in Entebbe (EBB/HUEN). Kampala's name comes from the local name given by the Baganda tribe, kasozi k’empala, meaning 'antelope hill'. The city is, like Rome, built on seven hills at altitudes varying from 1,150 m/3,773 ft to 1,320 m/4,330 ft, from where you can see Lake Victoria. It was founded by a local chief towards the end of the 1800's, and has today a population of more than a million. It is a mix of the traditional Africa, including markets, banana stalls and swarming crowds, and the business centres, malls and five-star hotels of the modern Africa.

Entebbe
Entebbe is mainly known for its international airport, but the town was formerly the capital of Uganda. Some national authorities, and the president's residence, are still found here. Entebbe is situated on the shore of Lake Victoria and has fine hotels and restaurants, lakeside avenues and interesting buildings from the 1930's and 1940's.

Jinja
Jinja is the second largest city in Uganda, situated on the northern shore of Lake Victoria 80 km/50 mi east of Kampala. It is an industrial city and an important centre for trade. The countryside surrounding the city produces much sugarcane and tea.

People
The people of Uganda belong to a number of different tribes, and many tribal traditions and customs survive, even though much of today's population considers itself mainly Ugandan. Baganda is the largest tribe. Its former kingdom has played an important role in the Ugandan history. The tribes of the north, close to the border to Sudan, are nomadic pastoralists, just like in northern Kenya. The areas around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park are populated the farmer tribe Bafumbira, but there is also a minority of Batwa pygmies.

Some two thirds of the Ugandans are Christians. 15 % are Muslims, and about as many confess to traditional local faiths.

The main tribes/ethnic groups of Uganda:
· Baganda and Basogo Central Uganda
· Acholi Northern Uganda
· Batoro and Banyoro Western Uganda
· Basamia and Bagisu Eastern Uganda
 

Climate
The main seasons in Uganda are the rainy seasons from April to May and from October to November, with the dry seasons in between. This is similar to the seasons in Kenya and Tanzania. Mountains may generate more rain locally, and the areas around Lake Victoria receive rain during much of the year.

Uganda has a pleasant and sunny climate, where the temperatures rarely exceed 30ºC/86ºF, and rarely drop below 15ºC/59ºF (except for at higher altitudes in the mountains). The nights are cool, as most of the country is situated at some altitude. February is generally the hottest month.

Uganda straddles the equator, which means that the sun is strong. Use sun block and a hat.

Note
This web page on Uganda is a stand-alone introduction page that comes outside the main scope – Safari in Kenya and Tanzania – of Safari Patrol. Information found elsewhere on this site might not be fully applicable to Uganda or safaris in Uganda.

 
© Copyright 1998–2010 Safari Patrol AB
Page updated 18 February 2009