Christened the Pearl of Africa, there is so much to Uganda than just mountain gorillas and being landlocked, some travelers can’t imagine anything good coming from this East African country. If you also feel so, then you are wrong because this country is a Paradise on Earth with a wide range of animals, diverse cultures, and breathtaking adventures.
Could you believe if we told you that 60% of Africa’s total bird species are found in Africa? Or better still that half the World’s population of mountain gorillas is found here?
With its 10 national parks, Sanctuaries, and Wildlife Reserves, tourists have high chances of seeing big five games, Nile crocodiles, Cape buffaloes, African bush elephants, Burchell’s zebras, Rothschild giraffes, hippos, leopards, Rhinos, Topis, Uganda Kobs, Defassa waterbucks, primates and many others.
Are you a first-time traveler into Uganda? These are the important things you need to know and do during your safari to Uganda to achieve lifetime memories;
Apply for a visa
Most travelers to Uganda are eligible for visa-free travel but if you aren’t, you can apply for the e-visa online for a faster and stress-free process. Single entry visas are at $50, although travelers with plans of adding Rwanda and/or Kenya can apply for the East African tourist Visa at $100 for multiple entries into Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda for 90 days.
Understand when it is the best time to explore Uganda
Two main seasons are experienced in Uganda, the dry and wet seasons for what is ordinarily referred to as sunny and rainy seasons respectively. However, keep in mind that the country straddles the Equator thus visitors should expect beautiful weather throughout the year, meaning perfect for Uganda safaris all year round.
The main difference between these two seasons is the amount of rainfall with heavy downpours experienced in the wet season while little or no rain showers are expected in the dry season.
Therefore, the perfect season for a first-time Uganda tourist is in the drier months of January, February, June, July, August, September, and December, for visitors who wish to take part in gorilla trekking adventures without the worries of being delayed or interrupted by heavy downpours as well as getting stuck in muddy/slippery forest trails.
This time is also recommended for game drives as grasses are shorter thus ensuring proper visibility of the animals and because there are fewer watering points, most animals gather to find clean and fresh water hence offering spectacular game viewing opportunities.
However, the dry season is also the country’s peak season, meaning rates/prices tend to go higher as well as demand for activities higher. This, therefore, means that tourist activities have to be booked several months in advance. This however shouldn’t make you completely avoid exploring Uganda during these months because the country never suffers from mass tourism.
The wetter months from March to May as well as October to November are also the low season because most visitors shun them, owing to the watery and slippery Park roads resulting from heavy downpours. The good thing about this season is that majority of the places of lodging offer subsidized prices.
Therefore considering the weather as well as comfort during tourist adventures, the best time to undertake Uganda safaris is the dry season between June and September as well as December and February.
Get the necessarily required vaccinations
To access Uganda through its main borders, travelers are required to present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate as proof of being vaccinated against deadly yellow fever. On getting to Entebbe International Airport (the main gateway into the country), visitors that hadn’t been vaccinated can get the chance to do so and even receive the certificate there and then.
However, it is most costly getting it on arrival into the country, and therefore to avoid incurring high costs, get the vaccination before departing from your country of origin. Sufficient research is recommended within your home country, for different Hospitals offering yellow fever vaccinations.
Know how to get around
While making plans of undertaking Uganda safaris, always consider some of the different ways of getting around this beautiful country, especially public transportation which tends to be topsy-turvy as well as baffling as visitors are likely to face difficulty in knowing places to find what taxis/buses and this is mainly attributed to the absence of clear road signs.
The main and easiest way in finding buses/taxis is asking around for directions, or risk moving in circles in addition to getting lost. Once in Uganda, remember that buses usually operate long-distance travel (3 hours and above) and are found in different parks.
Public taxis (Matatus) operate in both short and long distances and can be found in taxi parks. The Motorbikes or locally Boda Bodas are the fastest way of getting around Town centers and can be found everywhere. Visitors who long for comfort in getting around Uganda use “special hire taxis”, although are considered costly.
How long should a typical Uganda safari last?
The duration of your safari depends on the number of activities you plan on undertaking, but on average, 21 days is perfect for exploring the top safari destinations in this country, although a significant percentage can be explored in 14 days of safari.
Properly plan for the top safari destinations to explore in Uganda
Magnificent Uganda is obviously small with an area of 24,103,700 hectares yet it is a real paradise with so much to offer to travelers. From the jaw-dropping landscapes, plethora of animals, riveting historical and cultural spots to the wide array of bird species, this country has a lot to see.
Some of the popular Uganda tourist sites that shouldn’t miss on your bucket list are Bwindi Impenetrable forest for mountain gorilla trekking, Murchison falls National Park to explore the most stunning waterfalls, Queen Elizabeth National Park for unmatched safari experiences, Lakes Victoria and Bunyonyi for unwinding, Kibale Forest National Park for chimp treks, the Rwenzori Mountains for unrivaled mountaineering experiences and so much more.
Safety during a safari in Uganda
While the country has a terrible history tainted by the history of Idi Amin Dada (renowned Dictator), it is one of the safest places in Africa although travelers are cautioned against walking around late in the night, carrying backpacks with valuables from the front, displaying valuables in public and revealing so much information to strangers.
How much does it cost to visit Uganda?
The amount of money the Uganda safari will cost depends on the nature/category of tourist you are; whereby a backpacker using public transport and camping in National Parks won’t pay the same amount as a luxury traveler staying in a 5-star hotel as well as using private Land Cruisers. Therefore, aspects such as transportation, accommodation, food, and drinks will greatly affect how much your visit to Uganda will cost.
Whether to use the services of a tour operator or not
Interestingly, Uganda is one of the few safari destinations that can be explored independently without any hurdles, yet the scattered nature of national parks needs proper coordination. This is mainly attributed to the absence of direct public transport means hence using a tour operator would make your safari stress-free.
Therefore a tour operator will make a booking for accommodation, transport and meals hustle – free and all you will be required to do is make prompt payments.