Ten places you must visit in Uganda

giraffe 1

Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is 1,442 square kilometers of true wilderness lying in the extreme northeastern corner of Uganda along the borders with Sudan and Kenya.  This is the most remote of all Uganda’s destinations.

The vast savannah plains and rugged mountain landscape of Kidepo Valley National Park makes it by far the most spectacular of Uganda’s parks.  At the highest point in the park is Mount Morungole 2,750m in the southern boundary of the park while to the north with the border of Sudan is the Loukei mountain range.

Situated in the southwest of the park is the Narus Valley and along the western boundary is the rugged Napore-Nyagia mountain range.  The Natira and Lokayot Hills separate the park in the northeast from the Kidepo Valley.  While mountain forest dominates the high places, the areas along the Lorupei River support dense acacia forest. 

The varying structure and composition, huge latitudinal range and wide climatic conditions result in a diverse flora and fauna more typical of western Kenya than the rest of Uganda.  Kidepo boasts a diverse range of animal species with a list of more than 80 mammal species including 28 species found in no other Ugandan park.  Dry plains game can be found here such as the greater kudu and cheetah along with bat-eared foxes, caracals and Klipspringers.  As with many other Ugandan Parks Kidepo is still recovering from the Amin era when poaching and indiscriminate killing of game depleted herds.

Those less common and perhaps locally extinct are the striped hyena, lesser kudu, Grant’s gazelle and beisa oryx.  However other large mammals have made excellent recovery and healthy populations of elephant, Burchell’s zebra, buffalo, Rothschild giraffe, eland, Jackson’s hartebeest, oribi, bonhor reedbuck, waterbuck and kongoni can be found in the park today.   Plentiful numbers of carnivores such as leopard, lion, spotted hyena, black-backed and side-striped jackals are also seen.

Accommodation

Apoka Safari Lodge, Apoka Rest Camp, Kakine Self-catering Campsite, Nga Moru Wilderness Camp

Rwenzori Mountains National Park

 Africa’s mountain wilderness. There are two main trekking routes available which follow the Bujuku and Mubuku rivers, on the eastern side of the mountains. These can be combined to create a challenging circular trek through the heart of the range.

The Rwenzoris, also known as the Mountains of the Moon, lie on the border of Uganda and Congo/Zaire. Unlike the other major mountainous regions of Uganda, the Rwenzoris are not volcanic in origin but originated from uplift associated with the formation of the western Rift Valley. The highest point in the Rwenzoris (and the third highest point in Africa) is Margherita Peak (5109m) on Mt Stanley.

The Rwenzoris are noted for their vegetation-they support a luxuriant and dense forest with abundant flowering plants and the largest and most extensive stands of alpine ‘big game plants’ in East Africa. Here the giant lobelias and groundsels are even bigger than on the other major East African mountains.

Rwenzori National Park protects the highest part of the 12km-long and 65km wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation. Excellent bird watching features conspicuous regal and purple-breasted sunbirds, francolins, olive pigeons and Rwenzori turacos.

Forest mammals found here include tree hyraxes, blue monkeys, black-and-white Colobus, black-fronted duikers and the red duikers (endemic to the Rwenzori).

Accommodation

Rubonyi Community Guesthouse and Campground, Rwenzori Base Camp Guest House,Huts,GeoLodges Equator Snow, Rwenzori Mountains Safari Lodge, Trekkers Hostel

Ssese Island

Lake Victoria, Ssese Islands, Uganda Photograph: Nick White/Nile River Explorers

Lake Victoria, Ssese Islands, Uganda Photograph: Nick White/Nile River Explorers

Ssese Island is situated in the northwestern part of Lake Victoria and is an increasingly a popular tourist destination. There are 84 Islands in the group and they are very attractive. Apart from having various species of monkey and being a bird watcher’s and botanist’s paradise, these are particularly suited to those keen on walking or sport fishing. It’s a wonderful place, with friendly people.

Buggala Island is easily accessible by ferry, and is a regular weekend destination for Kampala residents. The island forms an L shape (with the long stem of the L pointing south, and the short stem pointing west). There are several beachfront hotels situated along Kalangala Bay near the ferry dock, which is located near the corner of the L. The bay forms one large beach, and it is more or less possible to walk between most of the hotels along the beach. The bay itself is serene, but one of the hotels may blare out a thumping disco beat that covers the whole area, especially on weekends.

Bulago Island is a small island closer to the lakeshore that is run by a resort.

Bukasa Island is a small island containing Father Banda Island is another small island, more remote, that also has a guest house. Christopher’s guest house.

Other islands that can be visited (with varying degrees of ease) are Bubeke and Bufumira.

The islands get their names from the enormous swarms of lake flies that breed in giant clouds near the shores. Although this sounds irritating, the enormity of the swarms is quite a sight. If one is caught near a breeding swarm, it can be quite a nuisance, though it disperses after a couple of hours. Otherwise, the lake flies are little noticeable, and they do not bite.

Accommodation:

Mirembe Resort Beach:, Ssese Island Beach Hotel:, Ssese Palm Beach Resort :, Pearl Gardens Beach Kalangala

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

white-rhino-and-calf

The sanctuary is located in Nakasongola District 176km north of Kampala off the Kampala- Gulu high way. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is run by Uganda Rhino Fund and Uganda Wildlife Authority.

 Uganda was a home of thousands of rhinos some years back and the main aim for establishing this Sanctuary was to restore the rhinoceros population in Uganda (Black and White). There are five species of rhino in the world- Two in Africa, three in Asia all endangered and the success of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary will play the key role in the eventual re-introduction of rhino back into the wild in Uganda’s National Parks. 

 It is the only place in Uganda where you can see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

 When the rhinos are mature, they are sent out to different national parks. Rhinos are slow breeders, giving birth to one calf every two to four years. These rhinos are the only wild rhinos in Uganda.

 The sanctuary sits on 70 sq km of land and it has electric fencing all around it for keeping the rhinos protected from ill motive of intruders.

Accommodation:

Accommodation options include camping, a banda or a shared budget room and there is a decent looking lodge with pool nearby. The visitor centre also has a restaurant that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cost for accommodation and meals are on the website www.ziwarhino.com/

Holy Places

Regardless of whether you are religious or not, one of the best ways to pay homage to the culture and traditions of a place is to visit the land’s religious sites. According to All About Uganda, some of the most soul inspiring religious places in the land include the Baha’i Temple, the Rubaga Cathedral, the Gaddafi Mosque and the Hindu temples that rest in the heart of the city. No matter which site you visit, take a moment to connect with God while you are there.

Sipi Falls

sipi falls

At the edge of Mount Elgon National Park lie the Sipi Falls, be sure to visit one of the places for which Uganda is famous. Sipi Falls is made up of three different waterfalls, so you can relax and take in the beauty of each one. This is the perfect spot to spend some time unwinding with your fellow travelers and to take plenty of pictures so that you can always remember your wonderful trip to this country.

The Sipi River is named after the “Sep”, a plant indigenous to the banks of the River.  Resembling a type of wild banana, Sep is a medicinal plant used for treating measles and fever.  It has translucent green fronds with a bolt of crimson rib.

Head to Jinja

rafting

You absolutely must visit this area during your trip to Uganda. Here, at this Nile source, you will find both the Mabira Rainforest and the Bujagali Falls. You can even engage in some of your favorite water sports while you are here. Be sure it is safe to do so though before heading into the waters. You can actually go white water rafting on the Nile River. Imagine how amazing it will be to say that you were actually on one of the most well-known rivers in the entire world.

Accomodation:

Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa, Maritim Jolie Ville Kings Island Luxor, Mara House, Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, Amon Hotel Luxor

Mount Elgon

This is the fourth largest park in the country. Mt. Elgon is an extinct volcano that straddles both the Ugandan and Kenyan borders. Two million years ago, after its last major eruption, the top of Mt. Elgon collapsed, creating one of the largest calderas in the world. The caldera resembles a large ‘bowl’, 8 km in diameter, surrounded by a ring of rugged peaks. The collapsed crater covers approximately 40 sq km with hot springs inside and shallow ‘crater’ lakes throughout.

Trekking to the top of Mt. Elgon will take you through four distinct vegetation zones. The lush Montane Forest, occurring between 2,000 and 2,500m, along with the Mixed Bamboo zone (2,400-3,000m) contains the largest biodiversity on the mountain. Dense scrub and brilliant wildflowers characterize the Heath Zone (3,000-3,500m). Higher up the mountain at 3,500-4,231m, you will find the highest number of endemic plant species including clusters of peculiar so-called big game plants-giant fleshy herbs such as lobelias and groundsels that can reach up to 6m in height.

Most trekking expeditions up Mt. Elgon are based in the Sipi Falls area.  The most popular route starts in Budadiri and follows the Sasa Trail to the summit, and then descends down the Sipi Trail back into Sipi Falls. 

There are few mammals to be seen here, but occasionally Chanler’s mountain reedbucks can be spotted near the caldera rim.  There are several species of raptors to be seen, most impressive of which is the lammergeier.

Accommodation

There are a number of lodges and backpackers/campsites in the area offering a range of accommodation for all budgets. 

Sipi Falls Lodge, Sipi Falls Resort, Lacam Lodge, Crow’s Nest

Explore the Crater Lakes Region

This area is characterised by rolling hills, vanilla plantations, pretty forests and of course the crater lakes. For some of the crater lakes, the views are actually best from the viewpoints, accessed by roads.

There is also a lovely walk which you could do between Lakes Nkuruba and Nyabikere, passing Lake Nyamirima on the way which takes between two and three hours. So if you want to do this, you can incorporate this into your day – please discuss this with your driver-guide. You can also take a picnic lunch with you to enjoy at one of the viewpoints, allowing you to really make the most of this beautiful area.

A day or half-day spent with your driver-guide exploring the Crater Lakes area, doing a combination of driving and walks.

Western Uganda boasts about 60 crater lakes that range from shallow, hypersaline systems to deep, anoxic, dilute lakes.  These lakes depths  up to 13 meters. Ongoing research seeks to understand high-frequently climate fluctuations recorded in the linkages to climate changes elsewhere in tropical Africa.

Accommodation:

Kyaninga Lodge, Dali Lodge, Jacana Safari Lodge

The Equator

Uganda is one of the few countries in the world where the imaginary line that divides the earth into two half passes. The Equator or the Uganda equator crosses into Uganda at a point situated 72km south of Kampala along the Kampala – Masaka road.

 At this point, there are two cement circles marking the equator line and it is worth stopping if you are traveling to Masaka or Kampala for a photo moment. Also watch a demonstration by local entrepreneur on how water swirls in opposite directions in the northern & southern hemispheres at the equator line. Other equator markers are located in Kasese district within the Queen Elizabeth National Park, 420km southwest of Kampala.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park has tree climbing Lions.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park has tree climbing Lions.

Another reason that make equator worthwhile stop are the great shopping bargains. The point has got several craft shops and art galleries run by individuals and organizations. These craft stalls sell souvenirs and handmade products while some with marks talking about the Equator.

This article is a guest post by Guide to Uganda. Guide to Uganda provides comprehensive tourism information on Uganda. Follow them at  @guide2uganda.

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