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Reasons Why You Should Visit Uganda.

The Amazing Pearl of Africa and Its Magic. Highlights of Uganda’s Tourism Industry.

Uganda is widely acknowledged to be the Pearl of Africa, and perhaps never more so than today in recent times. The country has been recognized as Africa’s upcoming destination, with international travel guides like CNN Travel, The CondeNast Traveler, placing Uganda near or at the top of people’s “must visit” list.

It’s not hard to see why Uganda has so much to offer. You can visit one of  the habituated mountain Gorilla families and chimpanzee communities in its natural tropical rain forests. Enjoy one of the world’s very best birding destinations with over 1082 recorded birding species including a Ugandan endemic and the Albertine Rift endemic and seasonal migrants from as far as Europe. Be captivated by the snow capped mountain ranges and enthralled by the Spectacular waterfalls and uncrowded National Parks. Marvel at the shimmering freshwater lakes and revel in its colourful and unique cultures. 

Here are some of the highlights that make Uganda a must visit destination for any traveller across the world! 

  1. Uganda, The Pearl of Africa. 

Hundreds of miles to the heart of Africa, Uganda is one of the world’s best kept secrets surrounded by one of the world’s largest freshwater lakes and green sceneries. Centuries after reaching Tibet, navigating the Amazon and landing in Australia, European adventurers finally trekked inland to explore the heart of Africa. What they found to fill the gap on their maps was a verdant land of great beauty, endless variety and dramatic contrasts – and they loved it! 

Here’s what Winston Churchill had to say in 1907; “The Kingdom of Uganda is a fairy tale. You climb up a Railway instead of a beanstalk and at the end there is a wonderful new world. The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different and, most of all, the people are different from anything else to be seen in the whole range of Africa. For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life -bird, insect, reptile, beast – for vast scale – truly, “Uganda is the Pearl of Africa”

A century later, Uganda is still unique. Its green landscapes are punctuated by A – list of geographical features. The Rwenzori mountains, Africa’s highest mountain range towers above the tectonic trench of Africa’s Western Rift Valley, while the Nile, the world’s longest river tumbles out of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and 2nd largest in the whole world. Although Uganda stands directly on the equator, altitude moderates the temperatures to create a pleasant tropical climate and the country still has lots of unrivalled profusion of life. 

  1. A fascinating range of cultural diversity, traditions, food and people. 

With over 40 distinct tribal groups, Uganda has a rich culture that is varied and full of contrast. Central to the history of Uganda are 4 traditional Kingdoms. Busoga lies to the east of the Nile while Buganda occupies the northern shores of Lake Victoria. To the North is Bunyoro and to the west is Toro that lies in the backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains famous for its Fort Portal city – Uganda’s popular tourism city. Each of the Kingdoms has its own distinctive culture and tradition.

Not all Ugandans however are subjects of a kingdom and there are many traditional tribes. On the plains of Eastern Uganda, lanky Karamojong pastoralists live in Manyatta- cell-like clusters of thorn-fenced enclosures. At the other extreme, both geographically and stature, the Batwa pygmies, Uganda’s oldest ethnic group, bivouac on forest margins in the mountainous south west. 

When it comes to food, Uganda combines the best of all worlds with a wide range of local and international dishes. These are made possible by a kaleidoscopic variety of fruit and vegetables that grows here in abundance thanks to the country’s fertile soils and warm, wet climate. To borrow the words of Winston Churchill, Ugandans live in ‘a beautiful garden where the staple food of the people grows almost without labour’ 

Menus have expanded to make Full use of this variety of food and you can expect to find continental, Italian, Indian and Chinese dishes in major towns and tourist centres across the country. In addition to the above, you’ll find Japanese, Thai, Greek, Lebanese, Persian, Vietnamese, Ghanaian, Tex-Mex, and even KFC on offer – surely something to please everyone. 

  1. A magical hour with Mountain Gorillas. 

Down in the remote south-western corner on the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo lies the Mountain Gorilla country – Uganda’s foremost tourist destination. 

Here, set in a regional landscape of extraordinary drama and variety, the national parks or Mgahinga and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest sustain a remarkable diversity of plants and mammals, most notably the Mountain Gorilla. This endangered ape has a total population of only 1000 and is found only in Bwindi Forest and on the nearby Virunga Volcanoes. 

Encountering mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat is one of the world’s premier wildlife encounters – one that more than justifies the long journey to this remote corner of Afriica. Although Gorillas are undeniably intelligent and impressive creatures to watch, a Silverback can weigh over 200 Kg – the greatest reward is less tangible. Gorillas and humans are closely related and many observers experience a profound connection with their ape cousins. Visitors can also take pride in the fact that, by tracking mountain Gorillas, they are helping to ensure the survival of one of the world’s rarest animals.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of Africa’s oldest forests, it is also one of the most biodiverse with 200 species of tree, 350 birds, 310 butterflies, 88 moths, 51 reptiles and 120 mammals including several primates including Chimpanzee and the mountain Gorilla. Bwindi has 20 habituated Gorilla groups, which are tracked from four trails. Gorilla tracking takes between two to eight hours depending on the location of the group. Be prepared for some strenuous exercise on the steep, densely vegetated slopes of the Impenetrable forest. 

  1. The Great East African Rift Valley, a wildlife galore on the floor of the Rift Valley. 

Uganda is home to the western arm of the Albertine Rift Valley which is home to Uganda’s most visited and most famous national park, Queen Elizabeth National Park. Uganda’s most diverse park, Queen Elizabeth enjoys a particularly scenic location between lakes Edward and George at the foot of the 5100 meter Rwenzori mountains. Though dominated by grassland, the park also contains lakes, rivers, open Savannah, Acacia woodland, tropical rainforest and vast wetlands. Collectively, these support an impressive 95 mammal species and over 600 species of bird. 

On this Rift Valley floor lies a 40 kilometre long natural Kazinga channel that with boat trips gives you an opportunity to sight Nile crocodiles, hundreds of Hippo and elephants on its banks. A meandering drive among spectacular volcanic craters, Game Safaris on the Kasenyi plains, Chimpanzee Tracking in the depths of Kyambura Gorge, walks in the Maramagambo Forest and game drives in the remote wilderness of Ishasha, Queen Elizabeth National Park has plenty to interest any visitor. 

  1. Jinja and The River Nile – Geography, History, and High octane adventure.

Although Jinja is little more than a century old, it lies at the centre of a mystery that dates back to ancient Egypt. For the town marks the start of the River Nile, a location that eluded geographers for more than 50 centuries. 

Egyptians, Roman’s, and Greeks all tried to locate the river’s origin, but the swamps in South Sudan frustrated their efforts. The puzzle persisted until 1862 when the English Explorer John Hanning Speke reached the sole outlet from Lake Victoria. Watching the lake drain north over a rocky cataract, known locally as Ejinja, he proclaimed this to be the Source of the Nile. 

Today, the Source attracts thousands of visitors each year. Some are drawn by a sense of history, others are attracted by its geographical significance. All arrive reassured by the knowledge that exploring the headwaters of the Nile is a considerably more comfortable and entertaining adventure than it was in 1862.

The prospect of adventure still persists and the turbulent headwaters of this iconic river can also be experienced using kayaks, rafts, jet boats l, Quad bikes or with a Bungee rope strapped around your ankles. 

The main attraction in the quiet riverside town of Jinja is a visit to The Source of the longest river in the world- the Nile. Jinja is now firmly established and often referred to as East Africa’s Adventure Capital by travellers. Each year, thousands of tourists, backpackers and overland truckers flock to the river to raft a series of rapids. 

Other activities  besides Rafting keep the Adrenaline flowing, including Kayaking, Quad Biking, jet boating and a 44 metre Bungee jump above the river. The full menu caters for mild as well as wild tastes. Family boat trips, fishing excursions, sundowner cruises and paddle boarding are also done here. On shore, horse riding and mountain biking provides means of exploration. 

  1. African Big Five Safari and a Birding Paradise.

The most ideal experience of a safari holiday in Africa is patently viewing big game and remarkable birding life. Four of Uganda’s protected National Parks are considered premium destinations for any lover of the big game; Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Kidepo Valley Park. Each of these offers morning and afternoon game drives taken under the supervision of an expert guide. Full-day private game viewing opportunities are also possible. You will be spending many hours watching animal behaviours, including four of the Big Five of Africa, roaming the plains. Adding a visit to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary enroute to Murchison Falls National Park gives you an opportunity to encounter all the African Big Five while on safari in Uganda. 

Queen Elizabeth National Park hosts massive herds of over 10,000 buffalos and 2,500 elephants, along with 5,000 hippos that claim the Kazinga Channel and Ishasha River as some of their territory. In addition, you will be able to photograph myriad grazers such as the Ugandan kob, warthog, topi, bushbuck, and elusive sitatunga antelope. The park is also famous for 10 species of primates and more than 600 species of birdlife, including the peculiar shoebill stork and other varieties native to the Albertine Rift Valley.

Although the highlight of Murchison Falls National Park is no doubt the spectacular falls on the Nile tourists flock here to see, this riverine wilderness also boasts an incredible variety of terrestrial, aquatic animals, and birdlife. Whether you’re on a game drive or cruising on the Victoria Nile River, you’ll have opportunities to spot some of the 76 species of mammals and 451 types of birds that thrive here. To see chimpanzees, choose a trek to the Budongo forest.

Kidepo Valley National Park, taglined as The True African Wilderness is yet another prime location in northern Uganda where you can observe the big game. Despite its dry-arid conditions, with just a single dry and wet season in the whole year, the park has a spectacular landscape whose beauty will entrance you. Fed by the Narus River and the seasonal Kidepo River, the outback is a photographer’s delight, abounding with 77 species of mammals, including the lion, leopard, hyena, elephant, and buffalo, along with 475 kinds of birds, 60 of these varieties are not found in any other location in Uganda.

  1. Climbing Uganda’s Mountains is a Mystical Challenge.

If you delight in highland trekking, hiking, and climbing mountains to enjoy their natural beauty, you’ll want to plan your holiday to include locations such as Mount Gahinga, Mount Muhavura, Mount Sabinyo, Mount Elgon, and the Rwenzori Mountains Of The Moon. Mount Elgon is a pristine locale near the Kenya and Uganda border whose landscape was shaped by erupting volcanoes 24 million years ago. At present, this park in Uganda has five major peaks which you can sign up to scale.

The adventurous thing about climbing the heights of this park is that you don’t need to be a seasoned mountaineer, nor do you need any special skills. The hikes are not extremely taxing and the routes offer stunning panoramas of the landscape as well as opportunities to view various species of animals and birds. You may be lucky enough to spot three of the Big Five of Africa here. In addition, the reserve is home to an amazing diversity of plant life, which your guide will introduce you to along the trail, while you enjoy views of beautiful rivers, cascading waterfalls, and shimmering pools.

The Rwenzori Mountains of Uganda, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a specialist mountain location for a graduated climbing excursion and is better suited to more experienced mountaineers. The park has three major peaks that you can climb: Stanley, Baker, and Speke. Called the “Mountains of the Moon”, the six massifs that make up the Rwenzori range are not the result of volcanic activity but are actually uplifted rock rising above the Western Rift Valley.

Treks in the Rwenzori Mountains, whose peaks rise to over 5,000 metres (nearly 17,000 feet), typically take between 7 and 9 days and treat hardy highland vacationers to some of the most fabulous natural vistas in Africa. In addition, you will have the chance to photograph unique and oversized botanical flora not seen anywhere else in the world. As you climb higher, you may see the remnants of the ice fields that have been present here year-round for thousands of years, though they are rapidly shrinking due to global warming.

  1. Idyllic pristine Islands and white sand beaches in this landlocked country.

Prospective tourists are often startled to hear about distinct beach experiences in land-locked Uganda. A serene beach vacation seems unlikely in the heart of Africa. But that’s actually possible on some of the 84 islands of the Ssese Archipelago, located within Lake Victoria.

This lake is the second-largest freshwater body in the world by surface area, and it’s dotted with small and large islets. One of them, Ngamba Island, even hosts a facility for chimpanzee research and conservation that you can visit. This location is also famous for its diverse butterflies and various bird species as well as small reptiles. 

Laze on tan-coloured beaches, with green palms and vegetation creating a striking contrast against the backdrop of the shimmering aqua waters of the lake. When vacationing in Uganda, you have the option of staying over at the lakeside resorts accessible from Entebbe before leaving for your adventures in the parks of the country. Alternatively, you can complete your tour and wildlife viewing excursions by spending a few days unwinding in tranquillity before heading for home from Entebbe International Airport.

The islands and waterfront resorts in Entebbe also make ideal locations for an exotic destination wedding—after which you could spend your honeymoon enjoying Uganda’s other attractions. Fishing is another fun activity to do here, while families can enjoy beach picnics, building sandcastles, and watching the antics of monkeys in the trees.

  1. Buzzing Cities and towns, a mosaic of nightlife and entertainment.

While Uganda is famous for its many national parks and reserves, your vacation wouldn’t be complete without taking some time to explore its urban locations. Like most African countries that were once under colonial rule, Uganda has its share of architecture reflecting that era in its history. Today, the country’s primary city and two major towns display the modernization that has taken over the country over the last few decades.

The capital city of Kampala stands on the traditional site of the administrative centre of the old Buganda kings. You can visit the city’s five distinct areas: Central, Lubaga (or Rubaga), Kawempe, Makindye, and Nakawa. The city also proudly displays its religious tolerance with various places of worship that you can check out during your tour, if only to admire their beauty.

You can also spend some enjoyable time in the town of Entebbe, located on the banks of the iconic Lake Victoria. If you fly directly into Uganda for your safari holiday, you will land at Entebbe International Airport, which serves as the primary entry point into the country. You can spend time in the town’s tranquil environs before you head out to the wildlife parks, or choose to spend a little time there relaxing during the final days of your trip.

The town of Jinja on the Nile River has come a long way since the 1860s when it was a simple Bantu village located beside a lovely waterfall that formed the northern outlet of Lake Victoria (since submerged by a dam). John Hanning Speke arrived here on his quest for the source of the Nile and, by drawing attention to the area, paved the way for its transformation from a village into a bustling place, a paradise for adventurers from all over the world. The Jinja you see today has acquired the title of “Adventure Capital Of East Africa,” offering tourists a range of exciting activities to indulge in, including water sports, as well as a chance to explore the city for a peek into its colonial past.

You can sign up for activities such as white water rafting or kayaking, for an experience of the power of the river. If you prefer tamer adventures, go for a paddleboard trip; you’ll just need a little training to balance yourself. More relaxed activities to enjoy on your vacation, sign up for a sunset cruise on the river or a tranquil fishing lesson. There’s plenty to do onshore as well: try your hand at mountain biking, quad biking, or horseback riding.

  1. A Primate Capital of the World.

Uganda’s Kibale National Park has its own program for conservation and research on chimps, called the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP). As you’re planning your tour of the forest reserve, you’ll have an opportunity to book a visit to track down one of the three habituated chimpanzee communities. Go on the morning trek that begins at 8 a.m. or for the afternoon session that begins at 2 p.m.

Each trek will take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the location of the primate community you have been assigned to. On locating the chimpanzee family, you will be able to spend an hour in their company, observing them in their daily activities of feeding, hunting, napping, grooming one another, or nursing their young. While chimpanzees spend most of their time in the trees, they may come down to the forest floor on occasions to traverse the forest floor or feed on their hunt.

Kibale National Park also offers discerning vacationers the opportunity to participate in the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience, or CHEX, as they are locally branded. Similar to the gorilla habituation excursion, this allows you to spend a few hours with the chimpanzees studying the animals and to learn how they observe the primates, recording their behaviour and habits. This project assists in the process of adapting the animals to the presence of humans, but it’s also essential for the development of programs designed for their protection and sustainable conservation.

If you want to see chimpanzees in other natural habitats, you can find them in the Budongo forest of Murchison Falls National Park, or in the Kyambura Gorge of Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

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