Submitted by Heather Demars on July 30, 2016
Uganda is a landlocked country located in East Africa. It lies astride the equator and is bounded by Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda and Tanzania. This magnificent country consists of plateaus, high rimmed mountains, volcanic lakes and peaks. On the Western part, tourists will see a part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley that contains the majestic lakes Albert, Edward, and George.
The country is commonly tagged as “Little Africa” in a sense that everything the big continent has to offer is already packed into this one small but stunning destination. As home to the highest mountain range in Africa known as the Mountains of the Moon in Rwenzori National Park, Uganda also boasts the highest number of primates on earth, including the magnificent mountain gorilla which is one of the rarest animals on the planet. In fact, this is the country’s greatest tourist attraction – the ultimate Uganda Gorilla Safari. Visitors will truly enjoy gorilla trekking in the Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
But Uganda is not just about gorillas. First time visitors will never be able to resist the diverse wildlife seen at the Murchison Falls National Park and the Queen Elizabeth National Park, as well as the primates that pack in the Kibale Forest National Park where chimpanzee trekking has been a great alternative to a Uganda Gorilla Safari.
The country will also surprise you with its ecological crossover between mountains and tropical forests of Central Africa and the vast Savannahs of East Africa. Uganda proves to be the best destination to get the most of both worlds.
Winston Churchill once called Uganda as the “Pearl of Africa” and like a pearl; those who seek it out will surely be enriched by one of Africa’s memorable treasures. Take the plunge now and discover this magical microcosm of Africa.
When to Travel
Uganda is a country that can be visited all year round. Most of the country enjoys a perfect tropical climate and although it is situated near the equator, the climate here is warm rather than hot and temperatures vary a little throughout the year.
The hottest months are from December to February while months from April to May and October to November spans the rainy season. The latter is somewhat less appealing to travel because temperatures in the mountains are much cooler and snow is common.
In general, the best time to travel will be the dry season around the months of January and February, and June to September – this includes gorilla trekking. However, the rainy season should not be ignored completely. Even though this is not a recommended time to travel, it is not impossible to do so. Just be prepared for any delays and possible changes in itinerary.
Cuisine and Drink
Food from Uganda is a sensation. Tourists are encouraged to try the luwombo, which is meat or groundnut sauce steamed in banana leaves. It is very aromatic and is often served with “food”, which in Ugandan dialect means any kind of carbohydrate. Other common “foods” are posho which is made from ground maize, cassava, rice and sweet potatoes. Staple “food” is different from villages to villages. The northern part has millet, plaintain matooke in the south and potatoes in the western region. Whole fried fish is also common in the country although mostly at beaches and is usually served with French Fries or some chips.
For the less adventurous, there are also toasted sandwiches or omelets available in any place. Tourists can also stop at roadside stands or markets and buy some fresh products like vegetables and fruits that are very affordable. It is not also surprising to pass by some fast food restaurants such as Domino’s Pizza, Nando’s, Steers and Hungry Lion in city centers.
If it is local and exotic food that you want to taste, you can find some good dishes at the Golf Course Restaurant and Airport Motel in Entebbe. Visitors can also head downtown on the Main Street to the Source Café for a great variety of food treats.
For beverages, coffee is one of the best products of Uganda. Source Café serves the best cappuccino and has one of the sweetest espresso machines in town. Although coffee is the pride of Uganda, British heritage had its influence with hooking the natives to tea. Chai tea is widely available and is best in the rural areas where tea plantations are often located. There will be signs posted on kiosks and shops where it is sold. Some restaurants also offer South African wine but it is recommended to stick with beers. Any brands will be worth trying but the Pilsner Brand which is the only one made without any corn sugar mixed is handpicked by the locals.
Sights of Uganda
An interesting fact about Uganda is that it houses three of the world’s heritage sites namely the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, the Bwinai Impenetrable Forest National Park and the Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi. Besides game reserves and parks, there are also available sites and places that will surely capture a visitor’s interest. After some little adventures on treks, next stop will be on some islands near Lake Victoria for a good rest and recreation. One of them is the Ngamba Island which is haven for chimpanzees.
Try Gorilla Trekking
Take a gorilla trek through the splendid, wildlife packed rainforests of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and see these almost endangered primates up close. There are troops from the Northern part of Buhoma and Southern part of Nkuringo.
Big Game of Uganda
Uganda’s beauty does not revolve mainly on gorillas. Popular game reserves like Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park are home to some healthy herds of buffalo, lion, elephant and other exotic African wildlife. The Murchison Falls offers a nice boat for exploring the park surrounded by some crocodiles and hippos. The waterfall nearby is beautiful and scenic with the entire Nile River plunging down through a wide fissure. The other reserve which is the Queen Elizabeth National Park has quite a few parts but the region between Lake George and Lake Edward is very much concentrated with wildlife. Furthermore, forest woodlands like the Kibale Forest National Park are great for primate and bird watching.
Chimpanzee Trekking at Kibale
As an alternative to gorilla trekking, Uganda also presents perfect and rare opportunities for tracking fascinating chimps in a pristine environment. Travel to the tangled forest of Kgambura Gorge in the Queen Elizabeth National Park or the Kibale Forest National Park for a once in a lifetime chance to encounter, exploring families of chimpanzee.
With the country’s mystical volcanoes, highest mountain ranges, thick rainforests and tumbling rivers, it attracts a number of professional trekkers, hikers, climbers and white water – rafters. Another dramatic sight to visit is the Virunga Mountains inside the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Moreover, Jinja will be a best place to visit for water trips and water adventures while the forest-clad mountains of Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Mount Elgon National Park will drive any tourists for a lung-busting hike trip.
Uganda’s landscape as a crossroad of savannah, rainforest and semi – arid plains means that it is also blessed with a fantastic avifauna. Over 1000 species of birds take sanctuary here hailing the country as Africa’s best bird watching destination.
The Queen Elizabeth National Park has an incredible amount of recorded bird species that runs for around six hundred. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park also boasts its own load of Albertine Rift of forest endemics. Surely, one thing you can count in Uganda is its majestic view for birding experience.
Stopover on the Ssese Islands which is an archipelago of eighty-four islands located in the northwest part of Lake Victoria. Buggala and Bukasa are the only islands that accept visitors regularly with Buggala as the most improved and developed destination. Fifty percent of the islands are inhabited, the other half are isolated beaches and a bit of jungle where jungle walks can easily be arranged.
Another destination is the charismatic lake of Bunyonyi. This lake is dotted with little islands where you can spend a day relaxing. The island is quite striking with its resemblance to the country of Switzerland.
The last destination will be the small fascinating island of Ngamba in Lake Victoria. This was built as a sanctuary for young chimpanzees. When they are old enough, they are taken to the forest to live in their natural habitat. Chimpanzee tracking activities are offered anytime of the year.
Uganda’s currency is the Uganda shilling (USN). It is a stable currency and cash exchange can be easily done at foreign exchange bureaus and some major banks. The best recommended banks to deal with are Barclays Bank and Standard Chartered. However, exchange rates are better in foreign exchange bureaus compared to banks. Also, US dollar bills have a much lower exchange rate.
Travellers cheques are also accepted but with 2% rates lower than cash. There are ATM machines which are networks of Standard Chartered Bank located at some branches in Kampata, Jinja, Mbale and Mbarana.
Bargaining can be done in some informal transaction such as those at roadside stalls and markets. But this is not applicable in shops and stores that offer fixed prices for their products.