GOING ON GORILLA TREK IN UGANDA
Looking for a perfect destination to track the gorillas from?! Uganda should be your first priority as it covers almost three thirds of the total population of mountain gorillas in the world. Tracking the gorillas is somehow a challenging activity but the experience achieved from it, is of a lifetime and you are surely guaranteed with memorable escapades. On meeting these giant yet humble apes in their territory, it will arguably be worth your effort as no one can fully describe the fantastic moment attached to the first sight on a wild mountain gorilla. It is to be noted that; among all the gorilla types in the world, Uganda only resides one type, which is the eastern mountain gorilla (rare endangered mountain gorillas) and it resides it more than any other country in the world.
WHERE TO TRACK THE MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN UGANDA
The world comprises of only four national parks which protect the lives of the rare endangered mountain gorillas, and the most fascinating thing is that Uganda has two of the four national parks. These Parks include; Bwindi Impenetrable Forests National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and then the two Parks in Rwanda; Virunga National Park (in DR Congo), Volcanoes National Park (in Rwanda);. Therefore, the mountain gorillas in Uganda can only be tracked from Bwindi and Mgahinga, of which both Parks are perched in the South-western parts of the country.
Location, History and Accessibility of Bwindi
Bwindi, found in south-western Uganda, was gazetted as a national park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO natural world heritage site in 1994. The Park is composed of 331 square kilometers (128 square miles) of both montane and lowland forests.
Access by Road
Accessing Bwindi by Road from Kampala, Uganda’s capital, it is a 6-8 hours’ drive; a route through Kampala to Mbarara and then converging to Butogota, a mere 17 kilometers from the Buhoma entrance gate. Always remember to book your safari in advance with your tour agency such that it reserves you a good quality 4X4 tourist vehicle that you will use for transportation, such as; Land Cruisers V6, Land Cruisers V8, Land Cruisers VX, Land Cruisers JX, Extended Land Cruisers with pop-up roofs, Safari Vans, Costa buses, Super Customs, and Rav4s, among others. Bwindi can also be accessed from Queen Elizabeth National Park to the north through Ishasha sector, which is a 2-3 hours drive or from Kabale town to the south, just a 1-2 hours’ drive.
Access by Air
Bwindi can also be accessed by Air flying from Kampala, Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield, to the modern tarmac airstrip at Kisoro. Planes can too be chartered to the grass Kayonza or Savannah airstrips. Bwindi comprises of three airfields; at Kayonza and Kihiihi, for those going to track in the northern sector, and Nyakabande, in Kisoro, for those going to track gorillas in the southern sectors.
Location, History and Accessibility of Mgahinga
In the South-western parts of Uganda (Kisoro District) is where Mgahinga National Park lies. Though it is the smallest national park in Uganda, covering a total area of 33.7 square kilometers, Mgahinga is one of the only four Parks in the world protecting the rare endangered mountain gorillas that inhabit the dense forests of the Park, and besides protecting the endangered mountain gorillas, Mgahinga is also known for keeping the endangered golden monkeys. The Park commands majestic natural beauty and its annual visitors always enjoy the beautiful views over the Park’s three volcanoes; Muhavura, Mgahinga, and Sabinyo volcanoes. On addition to gorilla and golden monkey trekking, hiking any of the above volcanoes is also an experience of its own, especially the Mgahinga volcano of which you will only pay US$ 80 to hike it.
Accessing Mgahinga from Kampala, it takes 8-10 hours driving on the good tarmac roads up to Kabale or Kisoro towns covering about 482 kilometers. From Kisoro town, the dirt road covers 14 kilometers to the park and another route goes along the shorelines of the beautiful Lake Bunyonyi. Ntebeko is the only entrance gate open from 07:00am to 06:00pm all year round. However, the Park can also be accessed by air as the charter schedule flights depart from Entebbe Airport or Kajjansi Airfield in Kampala and land at Kisoro Airstrip, of which from there it is a one hour drive to the Park.
Habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga
Mgahinga is a home to almost 100 mountain gorilla individuals but due to various conservation reasons, there is only one habituated gorilla family that is open to trekkers. Nyakagezi gorilla family, comprising of 10 members (gorilla individuals), is the only renowned habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga National Park. The gorilla family is led by a silverback known as Mark and being assisted by another silverback called Mafia. Out of the 10 gorilla individuals in the family, there are; 3 Silverbacks, 2 Black-backs, 2 Females, 2 Juveniles and one Baby-Toddler.
Habituated gorilla families in Bwindi
As of now, Bwindi Impenetrable Forests National Park comprises of over 500 mountain gorillas, which is almost half of the total number of mountain gorillas left in the world. The Park consists of 18 habituated gorilla families and these families reside and are trekked from the Park’s four sectors; Buhoma sector, Rushaga sector, Ruhija sector, and Nkuringo sector. These gorilla families are; Mubare, Rushegura, Habinyanja and Katwe (in Buhoma); Bweza, Nshongi, Mishaya, Mucunguzi, Busingye, Kahungye, Bikyinji and Bushaho (in Rushaga); Oruzogo, Kyaguriro, Mukiza, and Bitukura (in Ruhija); and then Nkuringo and Christmas (in Nkuringo sector). Mubare gorilla family, which recently had a new born baby gorilla, is however the oldest habituated gorilla family in Bwindi and Uganda at large and thus trekking this family is much adorable and life taking holiday tour which is of great experience to the trekkers.
Gorilla Permit in Uganda
For one to go trekking the mountain gorillas in any of the country’s gorilla trekking Parks will need to owe a Uganda gorilla trekking permit which costs quite affordable as compared to that of Rwanda. A Uganda gorilla permit has been US$ 600 per person but effective 2020, there will be a change in the costs of acquiring these permits which will possibly increase on the prices of trekking them and this will be acquired for you by your tour agency however due to the high demand of the permit, especially in the peak season, you are highly advised to consider advance booking. It is on your arrival in Uganda after settling all your safari’s bills that the permit will be handed over to you and you will need to represent it at the Park’s entrance gate – as it even includes the Park entrance fees and thus you will not need to pay any extra charge for the entrance fee as long as you posses a permit.
Accommodations in Bwindi and Mgahinga
Bwindi National Park comprises of various accommodations ranging from budget, mid-range and luxury accommodations which include; Buhoma lodge, Lake Kitandara Bwindi Camp, Sanctuary Gorilla Forest Camp, Silverback Lodge, Volcanoes Safaris Bwindi Lodge, The Gorilla Resort, Mahogany Springs Lodge, and Buhoma Community Rest Camp (in Buhoma sector); Nshongi Camp, Gorilla Valley Lodge, Rushaga Gorilla Camp, Ichumbi Gorilla Lodge, and Gorilla Safari Lodge (in Rushaga Sector); Bakiga Lodge, Gorilla Mist Camp, Gift of Nature Lodge, Ruhija Gorilla Safari Lodge, Broadbill Forest Camp, Ruhija Gorilla Friends Resort & Campsite, and Trekkers Tavern Lodge (in Ruhija sector); Nkuringo Bwindi Gorilla Lodge, Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, Mutanda Lake Resort, Wagtail Eco Safari Camp, and Bwindi Backpackers Lodge (in Nkuringo sector).
Accommodations in Mgahinga National Park are also many and some of them include; Mgahinga gorilla lodge, Mgahinga Community Camp Ground, Virunga Hotel, Mgahinga Rest camp, Travelers Rest House, and Kisoro tourist hotel, among others.
Rules and Regulations to follow during gorilla trekking expeditions
-Trekkers will only be given one hour to spend with the gorillas once met.
-Keep a distance of at least 6 to 8 meters while viewing the gorillas because a close intact with them may lead to spread of some air diseases from you to them, as we share almost the same DNA with them, and also since these primates are wild creatures, however much how friendly they are to us, you should at least view them from a certain distance for security purposes.
-Gorilla trekking is done in groups of 8 individuals per trekking group.
-Minimize your voices while tracking the gorillas because high voices will scare the primates hence failing to meet them.
-Do not use flashlight cameras while taking photos of the gorillas as the flashlights may scare the primates while you are still viewing them.
-Do not litter the Park.
-Do not smoke or eat from the Park.
-Do not mimic the gorillas as you may not know what you are communicating to them.
– Arrive at the Park headquarters earlier (at 07:30am) for briefings and to be given your trekking group – the gorilla trekking activity starts at 08:30am.
The Best Time to Go For Gorilla Trekking In Uganda
For all gorilla lovers all over the world should take note that; though the gorilla trekking activity is regarded as an all-year-round-activity, there is a best time during the year that the gorilla trekking expeditions be more joyous. The most ideal time to go for gorilla trekking expeditions in Uganda is during the Country’s two dry seasons; January to February, and then June to October, reason being that; since the roads linking to the Parks are dirt, they become easier to pass through in dry seasons as they become slippery in the wet seasons and passing through these slippery dirt roads becomes a hurdle. Still trekking the gorillas in the thick forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga becomes more enjoyful and easier during the dry seasons when it is not raining in the Parks.
What to Pack for a Gorilla Safari in Uganda
There are some vital things that you should not forget to pack while going for a gorilla safari and here is the guide on what you should pack; a yellow fever vaccination, water-proof walking/hiking boots, wet weather clothing and warm layers as the weather is at times unpredictable and for the evening coldness, sun glasses, sun hat, water-proof bags to protect your belongings safely, good cameras together with extra charged batteries, energy-giving snacks and enough drinking water, garden gloves, and insect repellents, among others.
Guide to Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is arguably the largest national park in Uganda as it inhabits a total land area of 3840 square kilometers in the north-western Uganda; spreading inland from the shores of Lake Albert, around the Victoria Nile, up to the Karuma Falls. The Park is dominated by woodland and forest patches in the southern section, well as the northern section of the Park is covered by savannah and borassus palms, acacia trees and riverine woodland. The Park’s very existence is determined by the dramatic Murchison Falls which are formed after the Victoria Nile plunging 45 meters over the remnant rift valley wall, hence bisecting the Park too. The Murchison Falls provide one of Uganda’s most remarkable wildlife spectacles, of which the regular visitors at the shores include; giraffes, buffaloes and elephants, well as Nile crocodiles, Hippos, and the aquatic birds are permanent residents there. In this guide, you are given some tips and useful information to help you plan an exciting wildlife safari to the mighty Murchison Falls National Park;
For your convenience, you are advised to contact your agency earlier to reside for you a good-quality tourist vehicle of your choice that you will use for transportation from Kampala to the Park headquarters. It is quite a long day’s journey driving from Kampala via Masindi to the park, in the north-western Uganda where the Park lies, therefore, you are advised to order for a driver-guide who will drive you safely as he/she is telling you interesting stories about Uganda and this will let you enjoy your safari fully without you getting exhausted and bored on the way. The driver-guide is always friendly and professional, and has a research on almost everything that you will need to know as far as your safari is concerned.
From Kampala, it is about a 5 to 6 hours’ drive to the Park, depending on your speed and other conditions on roads such as traffic jam. The route to Murchison Falls National Park is very scenic as you will get fantastic views of various amazing attractions such as; Lake Albert. However, the Park can be accessed through various routes; through Masindi town route (shortest route), Budongo forest route (most scenic), and it can also be accessed from the north through Chobe gate, Karuma falls to the Park headquarters at Paraa. The Park can however also be accessed by air and Pakuba is the landing site for the charter flights.
On your way to Murchison Falls National Park, you will break at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the only home to the wild rhinos in Uganda and trek them as you support the rhino conservation such that they can be taken to the protected areas.
When to visit Murchison?
The Park can be visited all year round though the best time to visit the Park is during the two dry seasons which are; January to late February and then from June to October, as the animals gather around water bodies making them easier to view. This should however not prohibit you from visiting the Park during the other months of the year because it is not that it is ever raining in those months as it is always a mixture of rain and sunshine. Rains should also be a small factor in choosing when to visit the Park because; due to the unpredictable climate of nowadays, even the rains are sometimes experienced in the dry months and vice versa. The best time for bird watching is January-March which tends to have plenty of bird activity with fewer tourists.
What to do in the Park
Murchison Falls National Park is arguably one of the must-visit places in Uganda and definitely one of the heavily visited ones annually. There are various activities that a traveler will get involved in, such as; Bird watching – the Park is one of the best sites in Uganda ideal for birders as it is a home to over 451 bird species, like shoebills, and the regular launch trips to the base of the of the falls will provide you fantastic views for bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park; Launch trips – the upstream from Paraa showcases a majestic display of wildlife and culminates with the memorable frontal view of the Murchison Falls; Hot-air balloon safaris – this is a unique experience of flying in a hot-air balloon as you enjoy fantastic aerial views of the entire Park and its inhabitants; Game drives & Game viewing – game viewing in the Park can be mostly enjoyed during the game drives in various designated game drive areas, with the main areas being the Delta where there are great chances of seeing the Lions in wait for prey as they go to drink, the Buligi Peninsula and the southern sector famously known as the heart of Murchison.
Other activities include; Hiking and Nature walks – the Park’s vast landscapes and its varied scenery plus the surrounding conservation area can explored on foot where you will have sightings at various bird species and primates; Sport fishing – during this activity, there is a huge chance to get a catch of a huge fish thus the activity is quite rewarding especially to the avid angler. The other amazing activity in the Park is the; cultural encounter, as energetic dancers from the surrounding area perform around the lodge campfires hence making for a magical African experience at dusk. In the Park’s Kaniyo Pabidi chimpanzee trucking site, you will also be able to track the eastern common chimpanzees, which is an exceptional experience achieved at quite an affordable price.
Where to stay
The Park boasts a variety of accommodations for its guests to base at during their wildlife excursions. Some of the Park’s accommodations include; Chobe safari lodge, Para safari lodge, Pakuba safari lodge, Bakers lodge, Nile safari lodge, Yebo safari camp, Murchison River Lodge, Bwana Tembo Safari Camp, Sambiya River lodge, and UWA campsite, Red Chili campsite, among others.
What to see
During your game drives and game viewing, you will view a myriad of wildlife, including; Cape buffaloes, African elephants, Lions, Hippos, Nile crocodiles, Giraffes, Leopards, common chimpanzees, and Uganda Kob, among others, plus several bird species.
Mount Elgon: The World’s Largest Caldera
Mountain Elgon, perched in eastern Uganda – approximately 140 kilometers away from Africa’s largest great lake (Lake Victoria), has the largest volcanic base in the whole world. Back in the days, the mountain was the highest in Africa exceeding Mountain Kilimanjaro’s current height of 5,895 m but due to the millennium of erosion, its height has been reduced to 4,321 m and thus making it Africa’s eighth highest mountain. Mountain Elgon comprises of five major peaks; Wagai, Sudek, Koitobos, Mubiyi, and Masaba.
A hike on Mountain Elgon’s deserted moorlands unveils a fantastic and uncluttered wilderness without the summit-oriented approach common to many mountains – the ultimate aim on reaching the summits of Mountain Elgon is not the final ascent to the 4,321m Wagagai Peak, but the descent into the vast 40 square kilometers Caldera. Mountain Elgon is inhabited within a large national park, Mountain Elgon National Park, which is shared between two East African countries; Uganda and Kenya. The Park covers an area of 1,279 square kilometers (494 square miles) and it is bisected by the border of Uganda and Kenya, of which the Ugandan part of the Park covers 1,110 square kilometers (430 square miles) well as the Kenyan part covers 169 square kilometers (65 square miles). The Uganda part of the Park was gazetted in 1992, well as the Kenyan part was gazetted in 1968.
You will drive 235 kilometers east of Kampala on a good tarmac road passing through Jinja town to Mbale town at the western base of Mount Elgon, before climbing to Kapchorwa town on the mountain’s north-western flank. The dirt roads lead off the Mbale-Kapchorwa road to reach the various trailheads.
When to Visit the Park?
The Park is open and can be visited all-year-round for mountain hiking and game viewing however; the most convenient period to visit the Park is during the two Uganda’s dry seasons which occur in months of January to late February, and then June to October. However; it is not a guarantee that rains will not appear during the dry seasons, as the weather keeps on changing, more so in the wet seasons; it is of course not a guarantee that you will not notice sunshine at some days. Therefore, the weather should not be a main remedy for you to go enjoy the climbing trails at Mountain Elgon – an experience out-of-this-planet.
What to see and do?
There is a variety of activities to do in Mountain Elgon National Park, such as; mountain climbing, game viewing, bird watching (over 300 bird species), spot fishing at Sipi falls, nature walks, mountain biking, rock climbing, and cultural encounters (the Bagisu; who believe in circumcising the grown-up youths in order to turn into a real man). Mountain Elgon is the oldest volcanic mountains in East Africa and one of the oldest in Africa, and it is surrounded by forests, inhabited by mammals and birds. It unveils beautiful vistas; various caves, cascading waterfalls such as; Sipi falls, that enchant you as you enjoy a hike up to the Wagagai peak and the world’s largest caldera. Although the beautiful scenery is the major attraction, the Park also comprises of a diversity of wildlife species of which the varied vegetation cover along the mountain slopes and some of the inhabitants include; African elephants, Cape buffaloes, Oribis, Defassa’s waterbucks, duikers, squirrels, spotted hyenas, and a few primates such as the white Colobus monkeys and the blue monkeys.
Sipi falls in the Park
The Sipi falls, one of the most romantic places in Uganda, is a series of three waterfalls on the edge of Mountain Elgon National Park near the Kenyan border. The Sipi falls area is the starting point from many hikes up to Mountain Elgon, of which the hikes around the falls provide stunning views of Lake Kyoga, Karamoja plains and the beautiful slopes of mountain elgon. The waterfalls are a sight to behold as they provide a very scenic beauty, well as the roaring sound of waters falling down a steep rock makes the all safari just fabulous!!! A visit to these falls and exploring the caves behind the falls is very exciting and one of the trails can take you to the top where you will be able to see the water from above – which is surely breathtaking! The spot fishing activities in Mountain Elgon National Park take place from the stunning Sipi falls and you are guaranteed memorable escapades.
As already noted above, the Park is a home to several attractions and besides the noted ones above, visitors will also enjoy views of the Arabica Coffee Plantations, ancient cave paintings near the trailhead at Budadiri, and the hot springs in the former volcano’s crater – which bubble at temperatures of 48 Degrees Celsius. The other interesting attraction you will enjoy is the Bagisu tribe and culture which invades the region. The Bagisu tribe is well known in Uganda for performing the circumcision rituals on the grown-up youths, of which the particular youth to be circumcised will first have to dance place to place in the surrounding villages for a specified period of time. On the day of circumcision, people will gather at the boy’s parents’ home to witness the braveness of the boy and once you perform this ritual, according to the Bagisu you are considered to be a man and you are free to marry. During the ritual, various individuals give out their donations to such a brave youth and you too it will of course be a pleasure to the youth if at all you do some contribution as this activity is really fierce and requires brave people only.
What is necessary / needed?
Like any other mountain, hiking the summits of Mountain Elgon you will need to pay some amount of money (US$ 75) in order for you to attain this superb experience. More so, whenever you are planning to go for mountain climbing at Mountain Elgon, always the warm clothing, such as; sweaters, jackets, a good raincoat and waterproof trousers, are very essential as it gets very cold in the night at the summits of the mountain. Other gadgets to bring include; energy-giving snacks, plastic bags, enough drinking water, good and light hiking boots, tents, camping mats, and others which will actually be hired with prior arrangements by your tour company that you will have used for bookings. You will need the porters (local community support staff) to assist you in carrying your bags and all of your belongings such that you don’t get tired easily while hiking. You will however need to move with some extra money to buy some of your extra necessities on the way, and to pay the porters – of course they are very cheap, so don’t get worried.
Where to stay?
There are various good accommodations within and around Mountain Elgon National Park and the spectacular Sipi falls, which include; Mbale Resort Hotel, Sipi River Lodge, Lacam Lodge, Mountain Elgon Hotel & Spa, Masha Hotel, Noah’s Ark Hotel, Noah’s Ark Resort VIP, Noah’s Ark Sipi Falls Resort, Sipi Falls Resort, Crow’s Nest Rest Camp, Kapkwai Forest Cottages, Kapkwata Guesthouse, Moses Campsite, Twilight Campsite, Rose’s Last Chance, and Suam Guesthouse, Savanna Guesthouse, Sasa River Camp, Kayegi Hotel, among others.
Lake Victoria: Africa’s Largest Lake
Only next to Lake Superior in North America, Lake Victoria, in East Africa, is the second largest fresh water lake in the whole world and arguably the largest in the African Continent with the surface area of about 23, 146 square miles (59, 947 square kilometers). It is also to be noted that Lake Victoria is the reservoir of River Nile, well as the largest River flowing into the lake is the Kagera River, in Rwanda. In this article, you will get to know some of the facts about the world’s second and Africa’s largest great lake:
Location and size
Lake Victoria is shared by three different East African countries; Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, whereby Tanzania covers the largest percentage with 49% (33,700 square kilometers/13,000 square miles), the second being Uganda covering 45% of the total surface area of the lake (31,000 square kilometers/12,000 square miles), well as Kenya has the smallest share of the lake with only 6% (4,100 square kilometers/1,600 square miles). The lake occupies a shallow depression in Africa and its maximum depth ranges between 80 to 84 meters (262 to 276 feet) and the average depth is 40 meters (130 feet). Lake Victoria’s catchment area covers 169,858 square kilometers (65,583 square miles). The lake has a shoreline of 7,142 kilometers (4,438 miles) when digitized at the 1:25,000 Level, with islands constituting 3.7 percent of this length.
Origin of the Lake’s name
Lake Victoria comprises of various local names according to different countries and tribes, of which the Ugandans refer the lake to as; Nalubaale, the Rwandese refer it to as; Nyanza, well as the Luo refer it to as; Nam Lolwe, and the lake is one of the African Great Lakes. The lake was named ‘’Lake Victoria’’ by an explorer called John Hanning Speke, who was the first Briton to document it, and he called it so after the by then Queen of England, Queen Victoria. Speke accomplished this in 1858, while on an expedition with Richard Francis Burton to locate the source of the Nile River. Lake Victoria (Nam Lolwe in Luo; Nalubaale in Uganda; Nyanza in Kinyarwanda and some Bantu languages) is one of the African Great Lakes. The lake was named after Queen Victoria by the explorer John Hanning Speke, the first Briton to document it. John Speke accomplished this in 1858 while on an expedition with Richard Francis Burton to locate the source of the Nile River.
History and Exploration
The first ever recorded information about Lake Victoria comes from Arab traders plying the inland routes in search of gold, ivory, other precious commodities, and slaves. An excellent map, known as the Muhammad al-Idrisi map from the calligrapher who developed it and dated from the 1160s, clearly depicts an accurate representation of Lake Victoria, and attributes it as the source of the Nile.
The lake existed and was known to many Africans in the catchment area long before it was sighted by a European in 1858 – when the British explorer John Hanning Speke reached its southern shores while on his journey with Richard Francis Burton to explore central Africa and locate the Great Lakes. Believing he had found the source of the Nile on seeing this “vast expanse of open water” for the first time, John Speke named the lake after Queen Victoria. Richard Burton, who had been recovering from illness at the time and resting further south on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, was outraged that Speke claimed to have proved his discovery to have been the true source of the Nile River, which Burton regarded as still unsettled. A very public quarrel ensued, which not only sparked a great deal of intense debate within the scientific community of the day, but also much interest by other explorers keen to either confirm or refute Speke’s discovery.
In the late 1860s, the famous British explorer and missionary David Livingstone failed in his attempt to verify Speke’s discovery, instead pushing too far west and entering the River Congo system instead. Ultimately, the Welsh-American explorer Henry Morton Stanley, on an expedition funded by the New York Herald newspaper, confirmed the truth of Speke’s discovery, circumnavigating the lake and reporting the great outflow at Ripon Falls on the lake’s northern shore.
Over a hundred years back, Lake Victoria ferries have been the most vital means of transport between Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya with the major ports on the lake being; Kisumu, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell, and Jinja. Not until the Kenyan independence in 1963, the fastest and newest ferry, MV Victoria, was designated a Royal Mail Ship. In 1966, train ferry services between Kenya and Tanzania were established with the introduction of MV Uhuru and MV Umoja. The ferry MV Bukoba sank in the lake on 21st May 1996 with a loss of between 800 and 1,000 lives, making it one of Africa’s worst maritime disasters. Boats are also a major transportation mean at Lake Victoria, with major ones being the wooden boats and then the speed boats.
Islands situated at Lake Victoria
Ukerewe Island is the largest of the islands at Lake Victoria and absolutely the largest inland island in Africa covering an area of approximately 530 square kilometers, located north of Mwanza Town, in Tanzania. However, besides being the largest island at Lake Victoria, Ukerewe is also renowned for holding the hugest population of Africans with albinism. There are very many islands situated at Lake Victoria in the three countries in which the lake is passes through – Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, but the mostly noticed ones are the bigger ones that have got names. Most sites however imply that there are 84 islands situated at Lake Victoria but this is actually a false information as there may well be many other small islands near the lake shore that never even get properly mapped, let alone counted. Some of the other mostly noticed islands at Lake Victoria, besides Ukerewe, include; Rusinga, Buvuma, Mfangano, Ssese (Kalangala), Koome, Maboko, Bubembe, Migingo, Damba, Nabuyongo, Rubondo, Ukara, and Bugala, among others.
The majestic Ssese island, in the northwestern corner of Lake Victoria, in Uganda, is inhabited by the Bantu speaking Bassese tribe , closely related to the Baganda tribe (in central Uganda) and the Basoga tribe (in eastern Uganda) and speaking a similar, though distinct language. Ssese is an archipelago of various sub-islands with the largest one being Bugala island with 40 kilometers in length, well as Ssese’s largest town is called Kalangala; which serves as the headquarters of the district that carries the same name – Kalangala District. Kalangala is situated about 51 kilometers across water, southwest of Entebbe – in Wakiso district, on the Ugandan mainland. The Ssese islands lie in two main groups; the southwestern can be referred to as the Bugala Group, after Bugala Island, the largest in the archipelago, well as the northeastern group can be referred to as the Koome Group, after Koome Island, the largest in that group. The two groups are separated by the Koome Channel. The other islands in the Bugala group include: Bubeke, Bubembe, Bufumira, Bugaba, Bukasa, Buyova, and Funve. The main islands in the Koome Group include: Damba, Koome, Serinya, and Lwaji.
Ssese is surely a must-visit island at Lake Victoria as; you will enjoy a lot of things ahead of its beauty. In the Koome group, there lies the NGAMBA ISLAND, which is the only sanctuary for the orphaned chimpanzees at Lake Victoria. At Ngamba Island, not only do you experience what it’s like to see chimpanzees up close but you will also enjoy a wide range of activities designed to create a rich and memorable visit. The other activities you will enjoy include; full or half-day Island’s adventure (day trips), sunset cruises, fishing, and some volunteer programs.
Fishing on Lake Victoria
The major economical activity practiced by the natives who settle near and at the islands of Lake Victoria is definitely fishing. Lake Victoria supports Africa’s largest inland fishery (as of 1997) and fishing from Lake Victoria is done in many ways by the fishermen, including; use of hoofs by anglers, use of draft nets, use of baskets and many other means. The major fish species caught from Lake Victoria include; Nile Perch, Tilapia, Silver fish, Lung fish, Cat fish, Lung fish, Clarias, Tiger fish, Sprats, and many more. Therefore on your visit at Lake Victoria, remember to taste some of the fish species caught from Lake Victoria for a great experience. The other activities done at Lake Victoria however include; farming and cattle rearing at the islands.
Flora and Fauna
Lake Victoria inhabits a large number of wildlife species both in the waters and at the islands some of which include; Nile crocodiles, hippopotamuses, turtles, African clawless otter, spotted-necked otter, marsh mongoose, sitatunga, bohor reedbuck, defassa waterbuck, cane rats, and giant otter shrew. The islands are also a home to a variety of monkeys, especially the monkeys. There are also various bird species found at Lake Victoria, including; egrets, herons, and shoebills, among others.
5 Top Birding Sites in Uganda
Some of the travelers who annually visit Uganda are more interested in doing the birding activity, and thus for every traveler wishing to go birding, this article unveils the best birding sites in Uganda that you should consider most:
Semuliki National Park & Reserve
Semuliki, in western Uganda, is arguably the best birding site in Uganda, and it the main reason as to why the Park is referred to as a ‘’True Birders’ Haven’’ – as the Park comprises of almost every unique African bird species. Though the Park’s main attraction is the pair of hot springs – male and female, found near the Park office at Sempaya, it is a unique destination for all birders and the birding highlights include Albertine Rift Endemics such as; the dwarf honey guide and purple-breasted sunbirds; 35 Congo-Guinea biome species found nowhere else in East Africa, including black dwarf hornbill, Congo serpent eagle, Nkulengu rail, Gabon woodpecker; and other species with very limited ranges such as; white-tailed hornbill, capuchin babbler, blue-headed crested flycatcher and the orange weaver.
The other amazing thing in this Park, besides unique bird watching, is the pair of hot springs of which the female hot spring called ‘’Nyansimbi’’, which means; the female ancestors, is a boiling geyser that spurts bubbling water and steam up to two meters high. Visitors can therefore cook eggs and plantains in the boiling pools that surround the central spout.
Kidepo Valley National Park
Nestled in Uganda’s distant north-eastern corner, Kidepo is also referred to as the ‘’True African Wilderness’’ due to its scenic landscape and varied wildlife, and arguably the Park is one of Uganda’s best and mostly explored protected areas. The Park is best known for its natural unrivalled beauty and protecting a varied wildlife, but more fascinating is that the Park is a home to almost 500 bird species, thus making it the second place to hold the largest number of bird species in Uganda, only next to Queen Elizabeth National Park. The experienced and professional ranger guides are available at Apoka to assist you to locate and identify birdlife in the Park’s various habitats. On addition to bird watching, you will also be in a perfect place to enjoy the game viewing activity as the Park inhabits almost every African wildlife species, such as; African lions, Cape buffaloes, African leopards, African elephants, Rothschild’s giraffes, Zebras, Elands, Cheetahs, wild dogs, Jackson’s hartebeest, spotted and stripped hyenas, bat-eared foxes, Oribi, Okapis, Topis, Gazelles, and many others.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Perched in the western parts of Uganda spanning the districts of; Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, and Rukungiri, the Park is definitely among the heavily visited ones in Uganda, of which; it is mostly renowned for its amazing tree climbing lions and the spectacular Kazinga channel – home to an abundance of wildlife. The birding activities overlap with the wildlife viewing locations in the Park and the highlights include; easy sightings of resident and migratory water birds on the Kazinga channel; spectacular seasonal congregations of flamingoes on the Kyambura and Katwe soda lakes; careful searches for rare and restricted range forest species in Maramagambo forest; plus the memorable shoebill sightings on the remote Lake Edward flats in Ishasha sector – residence to the tree climbing lions. The Park inhabits the largest population of bird species in Uganda, with over 600 bird species.
Murchison Falls National Park
Residing at the northern end of the Albertine Rift Valley where the sweeping Bunyoro escarpment merges into a vast, palm-dotted savannah, MFNP is the largest national park in Uganda and its existence is basically determined by the majestic Murchison Falls. The Park conducts a variety of activities such as; game viewing, boat cruises, sport fishing, cultural encounters, hot air balloon safaris, chimpanzee tracking, and bird watching. It is an ideal destination for birders – protecting over 451 bird species, hence making it one of the destinations in Uganda with the largest number of bird species, including the water birds such as; the rare shoe-billed stork, dwarf kingfisher, Goliath heron, white-thighed hornbill and great blue turaco. A journey to or from the MFNP is very scenic and there is an optional visit to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – the only home to the wild rhinos in Uganda, thus being able to view all the Arica’s big five (Lions, Elephants, Leopards, Rhinos, and Buffaloes), whereby the others will all be spotted from Murchison Falls National Park. For birders to view the many bird species should involve in game drives, launch trips/boat cruises and forest walks to encounter various bird species in abundance – as everything in the Park is there in abundance, especially wildlife species and bird species.
Mabamba Bay Wetland
The wetland is nestled on the edge of Lake Victoria – northwest of the Entebbe peninsular, and it is one of Uganda’s most important birding areas. The major bird species here include; shoebills, the blue swallow and the papyrus gonoleks. More special with bird watching activities at Mabamba is that; a birder can spot 60% of the total population of the bird species there, just within a single day thus being one of the most ideal destinations for bird watching activities in Africa. It is also the only destination in Africa where at any time of the day; a birder can spot the elusive shoebills.
The wetland comprises of a total of 260 bird species and a birder can be able to spot almost 157 bird species within just a single day. Mabamba is definitely one of the strong holds for the migrant Blue Swallow – with over 100 individuals recorded every year. The amazing birding experience in Mabamba in not only at the swamp, but along the way, there are other birding spots with a variety of habitats, and after birding, one can opt to follow a woodland and savanna trail up to the sand mining quarry to increase on chances of other species apart from the wetland birds. The birding excursions in Mabamba are basically done on canoes through the small channels of marsh-filled water and lagoons – birds are best spotted in the morning hours though; they can be spotted throughout the entire day at any hours convenient for you.
Other most recommendable important birding sites;
The other popular birding sites in Uganda include; Budongo forest, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Kibale Forest National Park, Entebbe Botanical Gardens, and Mabira forest, among others.
Vacationing Uganda on Budget
Uganda, in the eastern parts of Africa, is a landlocked country but with unrivalled beauty which forced an explorer Winston Churchill to baptize it as the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’. Are you travelling to Uganda but you don’t have enough money to go for the expensive gorilla safaris in Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks? Here are some of Uganda’s budget destinations that you can travel to and go away with great memorable escapades:
This is the largest and commercial capital city of Uganda covering an area of 189 square kilometers and borders the world’s second and Africa’s largest great lake –Lake Victoria. Exploring this beautiful and magnificent city is something you should surely get involved into – as it is very cheap and affordable but on the other hand, very rewarding because you will get to experience new and amazing things. Of course you will have to hire a 4X4 vehicle, of your choice, from your beloved tour operator to help you in transport, because exploring Kampala is much enjoyable while on a self-drive. During your self-drive in Kampala city, you can ask for an experienced driver-guide from your tour operator who will be driving you to whichever ‘’must-visit’’ place in Kampala. Of course a driver-guide is not a must thing that you should have during your self-drive in Kampala (city tours) if at all you also know how to drive and you have got your driving permit valid, but in one way or the other; you are advised to ask for a local experienced driver-guide simply because he/she will at least have a savvy on every place worthy a visit in Kampala hence getting away with great experiences.
Some of the must-visit places in Kampala include; Kasobi tombs, Lubiri palace, Buganda Parliament (Bulange) and Buganda Court of Justice, Makerere University (Uganda’s leading university), Old Kampala hill, Mengo hill, Kibuli hill, Namirembe hill, Lubaga hill, Nsambya hill, Nakasero hill, Uganda Museum, Uganda National Theatre, Nakasero Market, Baha’i House of Worship, St. Balikuddembe market (formerly Owino market), Parliament of Uganda, Namboole stadium (Nelson Mandera National Stadium), and many others. Kampala is also known for its marvelous night life – so if you are a reveler/clubber, this is the place to be!!!
I would say that this is the first destination in Uganda simply because most of the travelers to Uganda put their first foot on the land of Entebbe – as Uganda’s national airport (Entebbe International Airport) is ideally situated in Entebbe city. Hope there you can get me if I say that ‘’Entebbe is the first destination in Uganda’’?!! Anyway, going back to business, Entebbe is a town on a peninsula in Lake Victoria, in Central Uganda covering a total area of 56.2 square kilometers. Entebbe is nestled only 37 kilometers in the southwest of Uganda’s capital city and it is one of the impressive destinations in Uganda that you must vacate to on budget. Besides the national airport, Entebbe is highly known as a weekend eat-out place in Uganda, as many individuals invade the town’s beautiful sand beaches on the shores of Africa’s largest freshwater lake (Lake Victoria). Entebbe is a home to most of the country’s most popular beaches, such as; Lido beach, Spener beach, Aero beach, Lutembe beach and many others.
Besides the beautiful sand beaches of Entebbe, there are very many other things that you will enjoy in Entebbe, such as; UWEC (Uganda Wildlife Education Centre) which serves as the national zoo, National Botanical Gardens, and Nkumba University, among other attractions. More so to take note of, is that; Entebbe is a location of Uganda State House – the official office and residence of the President of Uganda, thus you will get fantastic sightings to this beautiful and great building. Entebbe is also within a close proximity to the majestic Ssese islands, including; NGAMBA ISLAND, which is a home to the orphaned chimpanzees, and the island is just 27.2 kilometers from Entebbe across Lake Victoria of which the cruise to the island is very spectacular and scenic.
Lake Mburo National Park
On your budget vacation in Uganda you can also go and experience wildlife in their natural habitants in the beautiful jewel of a park, Lake Mburo National Park. This is the closest national park to Kampala (Uganda’s Capital) out of Uganda’s ten national parks. The Park is situated 228 kilometers west of Kampala, which is about a 3 to 4 hours’ drive. The guided walks in the Park culminate in a visit to a natural salt lake where wildlife can be viewed from a timber observation platform and some of the animals to view in the Park include; bush babies, pottos, impalas, topis, zebras (in plenty), buffaloes, Rothschild’s giraffes, hyenas, lions, and over 332 bird species. The Park comprises of five lakes and in these lakes you will spot hippos and crocodiles. The fringing swamps in the Park secretively hide wetland creatures such as; the sitatunga antelope. There are various amazing activities that you will enjoy in the Park, including; boat trips, game drives, salt lick walk, mountain biking, bird watching, horseback safaris, forest walk, and night drives if you are to spend the night in the Park.
Nestled in the eastern parts of Uganda, about 81 kilometers from Uganda’s capital city (Kampala), Jinja is a town sitting along the northern shores of Lake Victoria – near the source of the White Nile. Besides being a port for Lake Victoria Ferries, Jinja is commonly regarded as ‘’the adventure capital of East Africa’’ basing on the very many activities in town that a tourist can get involved in, with main ones being; white-water rafting, visiting the ‘’source of the Nile’’ at Lake Victoria, and also visiting the ‘’Bujagali Power Station’’ – which is a hydroelectric power station across the Victoria Nile that harnesses the energy of its namesake – the Bujagali Falls, in Uganda. The other major activity in Jinja was ‘’bungee jumping’’ but it has been suspended for a while till further notice. Tourists can also go on to visit the Hindu temple which is situated near the town of Jinja. You can also visit the Masese Fishing Landing Site and enjoy the taste of fish species caught from Africa’s largest lake (Lake Victoria) plus viewing the abundant bird species at the lake shores.
Other budget destinations in Uganda
As already noted above, those are the best budget destinations you can travel to in Uganda but since the country is full of attractive places, tourists can also visit; Mbale town (home to Mountain Elgon National park and its beautiful Sipi falls), Lake Bunyonyi, Fort Portal (closest town to the mighty Queen Elizabeth national park and Kibaale forests national park), Ssese islands (Kalangala district), Namugongo town, and many others.
Reasons Why Uganda is the Pearl of Africa
Uganda is a small-landlocked country nestled in the eastern part of African continent, covering a total area of 241,037 square kilometers – its capital and largest city being Kampala. Putting aside its small size, Uganda itself is just adorable with unrivalled beauty, and it is referred to as the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’, a title which was given to it by a British politician called Sir Winston Leonard- Spenser Churchill on his visit to Uganda. There are various factors that Winston Churchill considered in baptizing Uganda the above title out of all the countries that Africa resides. Below are some of the major factors that Winston based on but these may seem unclear to you, as no one can fully explain/tell the natural beauty of Uganda, till when you go visit Uganda and confirm by yourself:
Located along the Equator, Uganda’s exceptional climate is one of the issues as to why Churchill referred Uganda to as the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’. Besides the cooler mountainous areas of Elgon and Rwenzori mountains, Uganda has a warm tropical climate, with temperatures ranging from 25-29°C (77- 84°F). In the early mornings, at around 07:30 am to 08:30 am, when the sun rises, the climate is just superb and the evenings (06:00 pm) always feel chilly after the heat of the day with temperatures around 17-180C (63-64oF). Uganda receives an annual rainfall of between 1,000mm to 1,500mm, except in the dry northern part of the country – Karamoja. The climate of Uganda greatly favors a superb wildlife viewing throughout the year in the country’s national parks, such as; Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forests National Park (home to the rare endangered mountain gorillas), among others.
Uganda is a place in Africa where you can experience all African wildlife species on such a small-beautiful country. The most common and popular national parks in Uganda known for protecting an abundance of wildlife include; Queen Elizabeth National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Murchison Falls National Park. Almost most of African wildlife species can be spotted in the above Parks, such as; African Lions, Cape buffaloes, African Leopards, African forest and savanna elephants, Hippos, Nile crocodiles, Zebras, Giraffes, Elands, Warthogs, Hartebeests, Elands, Topis, Impalas, Ugandan Kob, Bushbucks, Reedbucks, Waterbucks, Oribis, Sitatunga, Warthogs, Civet, Pangolins, and many others. For those interested in viewing the rhinos are recommended to visit the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – on your way to Murchison Falls National Park.
Mind-you, Uganda also holds the largest percentage of primates in Africa, especially in Kibale Forests National Park, of which itself has 13 primate species including the eastern common chimpanzees and various monkey species. In the southwestern parts of Uganda lies the epic BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FORESTS NATIONAL PARK, which inhabits almost half of the total number of the endangered mountain gorillas in the world. Uganda is one of the only three lucky countries (Uganda, DR Congo, and Rwanda) to reside these gentle apes, but more special in Uganda is that it comprises of two Parks protecting these gentle apes – the other one being MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK, also nestled in the southwest of Uganda.
Source of the Nile
The longest River in Africa, River Nile, has its source starting right from Jinja – eastern Uganda. The river is approximately 6650 kilometers (4,130 square miles) long and pours its water to eleven African countries although it’s more centered to Uganda as well as Egypt. Other countries through which the River passes include; Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, and Republic of the Sudan. The Nile leaves Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest freshwater lake) at the Ripon Falls near Jinja as the Victoria Nile flowing north for some 130 kilometers (81 miles) to Lake Kyoga.
The last part of the approximately 200 kilometers (120 miles) river section starts from the western shores of the lake and flows at first to the west until just south of Masindi Port, where the river turns north, then makes a great half circle to the east and north until Karuma Falls. For the remaining part; it flows merely westerly through the Murchison Falls until it reaches the very northern shores of Lake Albert where it forms a significant river delta. The lake itself is on the border of DR Congo, but the Nile is not a border river at this point. After leaving Lake Albert, the river continues north through Uganda and is known as the Albert Nile. There are several activities that take place on the Nile, including; white water rafting, kayaking, boat rides, fishing, and many others, which will all offer you with much fun and a great experience – hence a tour to the Nile will take you through another life of adventure.
Uganda is arguably a country to die for, for everyone looking for a diverse cultural experience – as the country is a stewpot of diverse untapped culture and heritage, with over 350 tribes. Some of the major tribes in Uganda include; Buganda, Ankole, Busoga, Bunyoro, Batoro, Karamajongs, Iteso, Bagisu, and Bakiga, among others, each with either a Kingdom or Chiefdom. Therefore, due to the diverse cultural experience that Uganda has, Churchill are one of the factors he based-on to refer it as the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’.
Talking of nature, Uganda is literally compared to no other country in East Africa and only few African countries can fall in the same lane with Uganda when it comes to good nature. This is the reason why it is called “the Pearl of Africa”. The beauty that catches your eyes as you jet into the country is just enough to convince you that the country is a home away from home. This is therefore the reason as to why some people make it a point to arrange a safari holiday to Uganda annually.
However, many things can be told about as to why Uganda is called the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’ but you can never really tell and appreciate the beauty that this African country has got until when you give a visit to it and get immersed in its natural beauty and varied wildlife. Churchill considered many other factors while baptizing Uganda the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’, including; the strategic location of Uganda’s capital city (Kampala) along the shores of African largest great lake (Lake Victoria), good looking people, friendly people, fertile soils, and many others that you need to notice only when you visit the country.
Top Attractions in Eastern Uganda
The Eastern part of Uganda is one the destinations in the country that visitors yarn for, due to its many attractions it resides. However, the most popular towns in the eastern part of Uganda are; Jinja, which is just 81 kilometers away from the capital (Kampala), and Mbale, which is also situated approximately 245 kilometers away from Kampala. In this well-summarized article, we unveil some of the most important attractions in the eastern region of Uganda that many visitors go to, and these include;
Source of the Nile
It is really a pity for you to visit Uganda and you forget to reach/explore the source of world’s longest River, Nile River, though other cites spot the Amazon River as the longest when the Burundi part of Nile River is not included – as many cites imply that the Nile River doesn’t pass through Burundi well as others state the opposite. John Hanning Speke discovered the source of the Nile to be situated in Jinja at Lake Victoria (though the lake has many other feeder rivers of considerable size), and it is surely a great feeling and experience that you will get when you visit this source. There are various amazing activities that take place at the source of the Nile, and these include; white-water rafting, kayaking, bird watching and many others. The white waters of River Nile combine with the lush vegetation along its banks, various bird species, and the cool weather to provide the impressive scenery that feels almost spiritual to be amidst. You will really feel very contented at the various bird species that float on water, watching fishermen spreading their nets (fishing), and looking at the gushing white waters.
Bujjagali Hydro-Electric Power Station
Still in Jinja, across the Victoria Nile, you will meet this great power station where Uganda’s electricity is generated from; through the station harnessing the energy of its name-sake (Bujjagali falls). Hr you will enjoy very many fascinating things, such as; a visit to Bujjagali Hydroelectric Power Project, nestled at the Bujjagali falls, of which it is the biggest run-of-the-river power station in Uganda and all of sub-Saharan Africa. The five-turbine power plant at the source of the Nile now generates more than 250 MW of electricity to power about five million households. This is a true model of success ‒ also for other African nations that want to generate sustainably clean and affordable electricity. Therefore, your visit to Jinja, in eastern Uganda, don’t ever forget to reach this great power station in the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’, Uganda.
Have you ever heard of Mountain Elgon?!! Do you know its location?! Have you ever wondered where the world’s caldera is?!! All these questions have one answer, which is; a visit to Mbale town, in eastern Uganda. Mbale town is just a 2 hours and 30 minutes’ drive from the ‘’major adventure destination of Eastern Uganda’’, Jinja town. On your way, driving to Mbale, you will soon start getting splendid sightings at a snow-capped ridge rising behind Mbale, which is definitely Mountain Elgon. Mountain Elgon is globally known to be the ‘’world’s largest caldera. Hope you are now sorted if at all you had the above questions. Anyway, an ascent of Mountain Elgon represents an exciting alternative to longer and more strenuous climbs on East Africa’s higher mountains. The mountain offers various amazing activities, such as; mountain hiking (being the major one), mountain biking, spot fishing, and rock climbing, among others. The mountain is situated within the Mountain Elgon National Park, and thus visitors can get a chance to spot some big games like; elephants, buffaloes, duikers, blue monkeys, black and white Colobus monkeys, red-tailed monkeys, and many other monkeys plus over 144 bird species.
Just outside Mountain Elgon National Park, on its edge – close to the border with Kenya, is a series of three waterfalls literally known as the Sipi falls. Whenever you are looking for some of the best romantic areas in Uganda, bravely find your way to the Sipi area – in the district of Kapchorwa, just northeast of Mbale town. Most of the hikes to Mountain Elgon start from the Sipi area, with the most popular routes being; Budadiri and follows the Sasa trail to the summit and then descends down the Sipi trail back into the Sipi falls. Hikes around the falls always offer stunning views of the Karamoja plains, Lake Kyoga, and the slopes of Mountain Elgon. The Sipi area is improbably scenic as the river plunges over the three sets of basalt cliffs during its descent to the plains beneath. These have therefore given rise to a cluster of tourist lodges and a variety of activities, such as; sport fishing, bird watching, and many others. With a cooler climate than most of the country, the Sipi falls area is thus is a nice place to unwind, relax and literally chill out away from the hustle and bustle of the towns and cities.
Nyero Rock Paintings
The Nyero rock paintings are nestled in eastern Uganda in, Kumi District, 8 kilometers (5.0 miles) west of Kumi town, approximately 250 kilometers (155.3 miles) from the capital city of Uganda, Kampala. The rock paintings are easily accessible from the gravel road between Kumi and Ngora, approximately 1 kilometer west of Nyero. An affordable entrance fee is collected and a guided tour is provided at the entrance gate (opened daily) – as the guide will recite the history of the place and take visitors around the caves. The Nyero rock paintings are among the most important rock art in Uganda and comprises of six shelters (Nyero; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
The rock art sites are believed to have been sacred places of the gods. The red and white paintings remain valuable to the people of Teso but are also mysterious since the painters are unknown. In the past, the Teso people of Nyero would sacrifice and pay offerings to the gods for problems of rain, misfortune, blessings and child bearing (Nyero 3). Individual and clan prayers were held on a seasonal basis. Oral history has recorded strong attachment to sites though people were stopped from praying in the 1970s by the Government at the time. Traces of smoke from sacrifices are still visible in some of the caves. The association of a sacred prayer place in the buffer zone continues to draw nearby communities to the site. The Nyero Rock Paintings are thus a worthy-visit while in the eastern part of Uganda, the pearl of Africa, as you will be experiencing new interesting things there.
THINGS TO DO IN KAMPALA
Kampala, located in the central part of Uganda on the shores of Africa’s largest freshwater lake (Lake Victoria), is the capital and arguably the largest city of the ‘’Pearl of Africa’’, Uganda. Several travelers to Uganda enjoy the City’s ‘city tours’ as it comprises of very many attractions, destinations, and tourists activities that are enjoyable during a self-drive in the city. Above all this, you will be impressed with Kampala city’s adorable beauty, culture, and hospitality. Below are some of the things you can do while in Kampala, especially on your city tour or self-drive:
Uganda National Museum
While in Kampala, a visit to the Uganda museum is very essential because you will get to know the natural-historical and traditional life collections of Uganda’s cultural heritage. The museum building is a historical landmark designed by a German architect Ernst May – it was designed with ample natural lighting and air to ensure proper preservation of objects. Among the collections in the Uganda Museum are playable musical instruments, hunting equipment, weaponry, archaeology and entomology. A wide range of collections exist from the 1960s to the present. Specimens are displayed in the Natural History/Paleontology Gallery which is open to the public. Collections in storage are available to researchers and students on request.
At the back of the Uganda Museum building is the cultural village with huts depicting traditional lifestyles of people in Uganda – eastern, central, and western Uganda, among other parts. For visitors who want to experience the indigenous ways of the Ugandan people, an array of cultural material, such as milk pots made from wood (ebyanzi), gourd vessels, basketry, bead work, horn work, ceramics, cutlery, leather works, armory, and musical instruments, are displayed.
Conveniently perched in central Uganda, on Kasubi hill within Kampala city, the Kasubi tombs – the burial grounds for four Kabakas (kings of Buganda) and other members of the Baganda royal family, remain an important spiritual and political site for the Ganda people, as well as an important example of traditional architecture. However on 16th March 2010, the tombs were mysteriously involved in a fire outbreak and some of the main buildings were completely destroyed, of which even up to now the main cause of this fire outbreak is not clear. The remains of the kabakas are intact though, as the inner sanctum of the tombs was protected from total destruction. Back in December 2001, the tombs became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in when it was described as “one of the most remarkable buildings using purely vegetal materials in the entire region of sub-Saharan Africa”. As a result of fire outbreak, in July 2010, it was included in the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger, however the Buganda Kingdom has vowed and tried to rebuild the tombs of their kings and ancestors – the reconstruction started in 2014.
Kabaka’s Lake (Akayaanja Ka Kabaka)
Strategically located in Ndeeba, within Kampala, the Kabaka’s lake is the largest man-made lake in Uganda – covering an area of approximately 2 square kilometers and almost 200 feet deep, on average. The name ‘’Kabaka’s Lake or Akayaanja ka Kabaka’’ literally means ‘’the King’s Lake’’, of which the King is of Buganda tribe (Buganda King) – who is currently Kabaka Ronald Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II. The Lake is just 5 kilometers away from the city centre of Uganda’s capital city (Kampala) and your visit to lake will offer you an experience of a lifetime, as you will get to know a wide interesting story about the making of this beautiful lake. The lake comprises of two islands which make the lake more fabulous, as the islands host a variety of bird species which are worthy a view. At one of the two islands at the Kabaka’s lake, there is a Buganda King’s seat where he usually sits when he has come to chill at his lake.
Namugongo Martyr’s Shrines (Africa’s Largest Christian Pilgrimage destination)
As the name states, they are ideally located in Namugongo, about 14 kilometers northeast of Uganda’s capital – Kampala city. The shrines are two, for the Roman Catholic and Anglican, both located in Namugongo town in the exact places where the martyrs were burnt to death. These are places for the commemoration of the Uganda martyrs who decided to die for their faith than just giving up. The Uganda martyrs were murdered (burned) on orders of the by-then Kabaka (King) of Buganda Kingdom ‘’ Kabaka Mukasa Basammul’ekkere Mwanga II’’. A very large number of people congregate to Namugongo on 3rd of June from all over the world in commemoration of the lives and religious beliefs of the Uganda martyrs – who were over 35 young men. On 3rd of June 2015 seems to be a year in which the highest number of people (2 millions of people) was recorded to visit these shrines following the visit of Pope Francis.
Uganda National Cultural Centre
This is a statutory body which was inaugurated by the ‘Uganda National Cultural Centre Act’ on the 2nd of December 1959. The Centre comprises of two major components, which are; the National Theatre and the Nommo Gallery, both of which are nestled in central Uganda, Kampala. The National Theatre offers a venue for stage performances of different kinds, and also serves as a cinema, well as the Nommo Gallery features exhibitions of works of art by both Ugandan and foreign artists. The Centre also boasts a snack bar, which claims to offer the “best African dishes served with best spices and ambience”, and the Craft Village, where locally made handicrafts are sold. The centre’s main aim is basically to preserve, develop, and promote Uganda’s culture in Uganda and globally through setting standards, building capacity and implementing relevant national policies.
Just 1.6 kilometers from the Kabaka’s (Buganda King’s) palace, on Namirembe hill, lies one of the most significant building housing the parliament of the Buganda kingdom, locally known as ‘’The Lukiiko’’. The building is also situated 3.2 kilometers from the centre of Kampala, and besides housing the Buganda parliament, it also comprises of many other offices that you will visit, such as; the Kabaka’s office, and Katikiro’s (Buganda Prime Minister) office. The building also boasts one of Uganda’s leading radio stations CBS FM and a television station called BBS Telefayina (Television), of which they are all Kabaka’s belongings. While here, you can also visit the Buganda King’s grand palace of Mengo which is within a close proximity.
Gaddafi National Mosque
This is a skyscraper mosque nestled at Kampala hill, within Kampala capital city, which was commissioned to Uganda as a gift from the by-then president of Libya ‘Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’. Therefore the mosque got its name from President Gaddafi though it later, in 2013, changed its name to ‘’Uganda National Mosque’’ after the death of President Gaddafi, as the new Libyan administration was reluctant to rehabilitate the mosque under the old name. The mosque is the official base of the head offices of the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council. Besides being Uganda’s biggest mosque (accommodating over almost 20,000 worshippers) and a special thing in Uganda – like the ‘Statue of Liberty’ in New York, the Gaddafi mosque is a great tourist attraction within Kampala, not only for its beautiful architecture but also how it unveils the beauty of Kampala city – especially when you climb to the top of the minaret (prayer tower). However for the women to climb up for the fantastic views, you will need to put on the Muslim outfits which are provided by the guides, so don’t bather yourself packing them.
The Pearl of Africa Hotel
Are you asking yourself what brings this ‘’just a mere hotel’’ on the list of top things you should visit in Kampala during your city tours? Well the answer is here; besides being one of the top hotels in Uganda’s capital city (Kampala), it is also rated as the tallest completed building in the city (23-storey building) and its height is about 90 meters (300 feet). This hotel is located on top of Nakasero Hill. I think, with such a milestone, this is something worth a visit, or it will even be more interesting and amazing if you spend at least a night in one of the air-conditioned rooms of this great building in the capital city of the ‘Pearl of Africa’. Other tallest buildings you may also visit in Kampala, include; Uganda Revenue Authority Tower, Workers’ House, Crested Towers, Mapeera House, and Uganda House.
Firmly situated on Namirembe hill, about 2 kilometers from the city centre of Kampala capital city, Namirembe cathedral was the first ever cathedral to be built in Uganda. The cathedral serves as the provincial cathedral of the ‘Church of Uganda’ and the diocesan cathedral for Namirembe Diocese, the first diocese to be founded in the Church of Uganda province, in 1890.
A visit to Rubaga cathedral is also a great one. The Rubaga Cathedral is conveniently situated on Rubaga hill, about 3 kilometers west of the city centre of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. This is the parent cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala, the oldest Roman Catholic diocese in Uganda, and it is also the home church of Archbishop of Kampala. The remains of the late Archbishop ‘Joseph Kiwanuka’, the first African Catholic Bishop and the first African Archbishop of Kampala Diocese, are housed inside the cathedral, and once you visit the cathedral, you will therefore get a great opportunity to view them. There are many other interesting stories about the Rubaga cathedral that you will get to know after visiting this magnificent house of God.
Nevertheless, there are very many other things that you can visit during your Kampala city tours, including; various religious centers such as; the Bahia temple, several shopping malls such as; Acacia mall, Kibuli mosque, New and Old Kampala taxi parks, Owino market, Makerere University (Uganda’s largest University), Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest freshwater lake), and the Parliament of Uganda, among many other attractions.
MUST VISIT PLACES IN WESTERN UGANDA
Arguably western Uganda is the most ideal tourist part in Uganda – it is the most heavily visited part in Uganda. There are very many top places that you should visit in the west of Uganda, including the country’s most popular national parks which are located there. This article briefs you about the 5 must-visit places in the western Uganda:
Lake Mburo National Park
This is one of Uganda’s ten iconic national parks, of which, it is the closest to the city centre of Uganda’s capital (Kampala), about 228 kilometers away – three and a half hours’ drive (3 hours and 30 minutes). The Park is ideally found in the west of Uganda’s capital, and it is a mosaic of habitats including; rock outcrops, savanna, acacia, woodland, bush, forest, swamp, and lakes that support a wide range of wildlife including species which are rare or absent from the other Parks of Uganda. There are very many interesting activities that can be done in the Park, such as; game viewing and game driving, boat cruises, horseback riding, nature walks, mountain biking, night driving, and birding (with over 332 bird species). Some of the most famous wildlife species to be viewed in this Park include; Impalas, Bushbucks, Zebras, Waterbucks, Rothschild’s giraffes, Hippos, and Crocodiles, among others.
Semuliki National Park (The True Birders Haven)
Are you a birder and you may want to experience almost all of Africa’s best bird species in this second largest continent?! Well, the only thing to do is making your way to the ‘Pearl of Africa’, Uganda, in its western part where the mighty Semuliki National Park is found – an essential destination for serious birders. The Park and its nearby reserve lie on the floor of the Semuliki valley. The valley is shared between Uganda and the DR Congo, and it resides a large number of wildlife from both central and east Africa.
The Park is a haven to over 435 bird species and a birder is guaranteed to view almost every special African bird species including several rift valley endemics and Congo species. Some of the bird species to sight in the Park include; dwarf honey guide and purple-breasted sunbirds, black dwarf hornbill, Congo serpent eagle, Gabon woodpecker, white-tailed hornbill, capuchin babbler, blue-headed crested flycatcher, and the orange weaver, among others. The other major attraction is the pair of hot springs (Nyansimbi; the female spring, and the male one which is called Bintente) that bubble up from the depths to demonstrate the powerful subterranean forces that have been shaping the rift valley during the last 14 million years. Travelers can cook eggs and plantains in the boiling pools that surround the central spout. On your game drive in the Park, you will view various wildlife species, such as; buffaloes, forest and savanna elephants, crocodiles, warthogs, Uganda Kob, and waterbucks. However, born with your luck, you can also spot the leopards, lions and bush babies as they also exist in the Park though in less amounts.
Kibale Forest National Part
Still in the western Uganda, about 335 kilometers from Kampala, lies one of Uganda’s most loved national Park – Kibale National Park covered by moist evergreen rainforests. The Park is mostly famous for protecting the highest number of primate species in Africa, including the common eastern chimpanzees. The perennially popular primate walk offers a great opportunity to view the chimpanzees in their natural nests. Therefore the most common attraction is chimpanzee tracking and the chimpanzee habituation experience which enables visitors to accompany researchers and habituators into the forest. The chimpanzee groups involved, during the chimpanzee habituation experience, are less accustomed to human presence than those explored on the primate walk, and following and viewing them is something very exciting yet challenging on the other hand. Other primates to watch include; L’Hoest’s monkeys, red Colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, blue monkeys and many others well as the noticeable mammas here are; elephants, buffaloes and you will get to watch over 370 bird species.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Spanning the western districts of Kasese, Kamwenge, Rubirizi, and Rukungiri, the Park is situated about 400 kilometers away from Kampala, Uganda’s capital. The Park is by-no-doubt one of Uganda’s incredible destinations that you should give a visit to as long as you step on the fertile lands of the ‘Pearl of Africa’, Uganda. The Park is most popularly known for its amazing tree-climbing lions and blessed with an assortment of crater lakes, savanna plains, forested gorges, swamps, rivers, and the magnificent Kazinga channel. The magnificent Kazinga channel is a home to an abundance of wildlife, including some safari favorites; elephants, buffaloes, hippos, crocodiles, leopards, and many others. The Park resides the highest number of bird species than any other destination in Uganda (600-plus bird species), well as the Park’s southern-most sector (Ishasha sector) provides a classic game viewing experience under vas rift valley skies. The Ishasha sector provides a great opportunity to the visitor to view the impressive tree-climbing lions which will always be seen spending their days resting up in the branches of shady fig trees, especially in the noon hours. The activities to enjoy in Queen are quite many, including; a classic game viewing, birding, chimpanzee tracking in the Kyambura Gorge of the Park, launch cruises, and visits to Katwe salt lake, among others.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forests National Park
The Park can be easily accessed via the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, which is about 62 kilometers away. However from Kampala, the Park is situated 460 kilometers away. Being in this Park will mean that you are amidst almost half of the world’s total population of the rare endangered mountain gorillas. Surely one of the world’s most remarkable wildlife encounters is tracking the rare endangered mountain gorillas across the misty slopes of the remote Bwindi Park. With 19 habituated gorilla families for tourism, the Impenetrable forest (Bwindi) is the world’s primary mountain gorilla tracking destination. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi takes place in four different sectors of the Park; Buhoma, Rushaga, Ruhija and Nkuringo sectors, and the gorilla permit is very affordable to purchase, US$ 600 per permit taken.