Thinking of heading on safari in Uganda – the “Pearl of Africa”? Now’s a good time to go as Uganda has yet to take off as a tourist destination in as large a way as many of it’s neighbours. This means prices for safaris in Uganda can prove good value, with less crowds around when you get to the wildlife. It also has something of “the road less travelled” feel about it.
Uganda is small by African standards at “just” 236,000km sq. at around the same size as Great Britain. The country is lush and a verdant green, with one third of the border made up of three of Africa’s Great Lakes, and the Victoria Nile running through the center. The East African tropical heat is tempered by an average altitude of 1,000 meters, with the east and west borders featuring significant mountains.
The wildlife in Uganda doesn’t compare favourably in terms of density with it’s East African neighbours Kenya and Tanzania, but it’s extremely diverse with over 500 mammal species alone. There are pockets with strong diversity – such as Murchison Falls National Park, which is relatively small with exceptional wildlife viewing – but the big safari draw in Uganda is the primate life. Uganda is probably the prime destination in the world for trekking opportunities to see habituated chimpanzee and gorilla families in the wild – a truly memorable experience, and one of the best walking safaris to be found anywhere.
Poaching and deforestation continue to be a problem in Uganda – as in much of the rest of Africa – and a recent oil discovery in Lake Albert has led to encroachment into a small area of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Despite this the general standard of national parks in Uganda is excellent, with good facilities, public transport access and range of lodgings, though infrastructure is not particularly developed. Tourist numbers in Uganda are much smaller than neighboring Kenya or Tanzania, meaning national parks are generally less crowded and offer a more enjoyable and intimate visiting experience.
Uganda Safari Highlights
- Trekking through the dense jungles of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to come within 5 meters of a silverback mountain gorilla and his family.
- Head up country to the Murchison Falls National Park to spot the big five animals with relative ease, as well as the world’s most powerful waterfall pass through the Victoria Nile.
- Take time out of your safari in Uganda to relax lakeside and soak up the ambiance on one of Uganda’s great lakes- Lake Victoria, Lake Edward or Lake Albert.
Best Time To Go On Safari In Uganda
As it’s a relatively small country with consistent altitude the majority of the country enjoys the same topical climate. In the higher areas to the east and west of the country it can get surprisingly cold at night times. January and February are the hottest months when wildlife viewing is at it’s best if you’re planning a game drive.
As with the rest of East Africa there’s a “long rains” season and a “short rains” season, March to May and October to November respectively. During the short rains it generally rains only for short periods at a time, meaning your wildlife viewing will not be too disrupted. Travel to most destinations during rainy season is possible, though you should leave yourself more time to get there.
Gorilla trekking is possible year-round, and you’re virtually guaranteed to see gorillas. However, do bear in mind that the trekking terrain is tough going, with dense forest and steep hills, so ensure you dress appropriately. See more hints and tips on gorilla safaris.
National Parks In Uganda
As well as the big five, Uganda is home to more than half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas. Click on a Ugandan national park in the below list to read more about that specific park:
- Bwindi Impenatrable Forest National Park
- Kibale Forest National Park
- Kidepo Valley National Park
- Lake Mburo National Park
- Mahinga Gorilla National Park
- Mount Elgon National Park
- Murchison Falls National Park
- Queen Elizabeth National Park
- Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Safari Lodges In Uganda
Budget safari accommodation in Uganda is centered around a few small towns and villages on the fringes of national parks. If you’re willing to splurge then Uganda does offer some truly luxurious safari in and around the parks. Mid-range safari accommodation is a little harder to find.
Uganda Safari Tours
Whilst already fairly popular, Uganda is still an up and coming safari destination for main-stream tourists. At the moment visitors tend to be either high end package tourists there to see the gorillas or overland backpackers. As such the types of safari your companies in Uganda reflects this. Read our reviews of safari tour companies in Uganda.
Uganda Safari Resources
Have you been on safari in Uganda? We’d love to hear your recommendations or suggestions! Please get in touch.
Though Uganda doesn’t have as high a safari or national parks profile as it’s neighbors Kenya or Tanzania, there’s still plenty to see and do…and often with far less crowds. As well as the big five, Uganda is home to more than half the world’s remaining mountain gorilla, and plenty of chimps. It’s also recognized as one of the best places for bird spotting in the world.
Most national parks in Uganda have a good range of accommodation, and the parks are easily accessible, making Uganda a great place for a safari.
Use the above map to locate national parks in Uganda. Click the safari icons to see more info about each national park and zoom and scroll the map for more details. Read overviews of each Uganda national park below.
Top National Parks in Uganda
Bwindi Impenatrable Forest National Park
331 km sq. Steep mountain rain forest with wide altitude span.
Kibale Forest National Park
795 km sq. Lush tropical rain forest.
Kidepo Valley National Park
1,442 km sq. Rolling savanna ringed by mountains.
Lake Mburo National Park
370 km sq. Savanna and wetlands surrounding Lake Mburo.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
34 km sq. Tropical rain forest covered extinct volcano.
Mount Elgon National Park
Home to vast caves where elephants and buffaloes go by night to lick the natural salt found on the cave walls.
Murchison Falls National Park
3,893 km sq. The Murchison Falls and Nile river running through thick forest and savanna.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
1,978 km sq. Savanna and gorges bordering Lake Edward.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Established in 1991 Rwenzori was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 due to its outstanding natural beauty.
Self drive safaris are an option in some national parks in Uganda, though you will need access to a 4WD to get the most out the parks due to the clay tracks. If this sounds a little too much effort for you check out our guide to safari tour companies in Uganda to research a driver and guide or full-on tour.
Have you been to a national park in Uganda, or got some useful information you’d like to share on the topic? Please feel free to get involved in the comments section below.