Our favourite hidden gem on the continent and famous for its outstanding gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. But to simply swoop into Bwindi and back out would mean missing out on the multitude of splendid activities the rest of the country has to offer – and there’s a lot going on! Here is our guide to the top things to do in Uganda, and how to incorporate them into your route…
1. Gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Forest
Undoubtedly the highlight of any trip to Uganda (we couldn’t not mention it!) gorilla trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of those experiences that just changes you. And whilst coming eye-to-eye with a mighty gorilla is poignant and magnificent in any destination, Bwindi has something a little bit special about it too – think tree trunks larger than skyscrapers, dappled by shards of sunlight and surrounded by luscious foliage and the twittering of hundreds of birds. A true fairy-tale destination and experience…
2. Safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Aside from gorilla trekking, game drives in the Queen Elizabeth National Park near the top of the list of things to do in Uganda. The park is a true safari star that’s not to be sniffed at and you’ll find the usual big game suspects (lion, leopard, elephant) as well as the not-so-usual (side-striped jackal and the Ugandan kob). Zooming across the plains in an open vehicle, taking in the wildlife and the glorious scenery is a wonderful way to spend a few days – and the camps and lodges in the area are well geared toward a spot of R&R if that’s on the cards too.
3. Go off the beaten track in Kidepo Valley
Whilst most of Uganda might seem quite ‘off-the-beaten-track’, there’s one place to go if you really want to switch off, tune out and get away from it all. Where? Kidepo Valley National Park in the far northern tip of the country, a place that receives less than 10 visitors a day. In Kidepo it’s only you and miles and miles of incredible scenery, but empty of wildlife it isn’t – thrilling game drives should reveal sightings of Greater and Lesser kudu, cheetah and eland, all of which can only be found here, as well as plenty of the usual suspects.
If you’re in the mood for adventuring, combine Kidepo Valley with some of Uganda’s more classic areas. Our route, A big game safari in Uganda will get you started…
4. Search for chimpanzee in Kibale Forest
Gorilla aren’t the only stars of Uganda’s primate show. Kibale Forest, an undisturbed tract of green and glossy jungle, is home to no less than 13 species of hairy apes including some rather mischievous chimpanzee. Tracking a noisy family is a thrilling experience and on your guided walk, you’ll hear their shrill calls from the canopy and watch the young hurtling around the enormous trunks. Definitely one to add to the list if you’re looking for things to do in Uganda!
Combine a chimpanzee trek in Kibale with a few days alongside Bwindi’s gorillas in our all-encompassing route, The primates of Uganda.
5. Discover the source of the Nile
As far as things to do in Uganda go, discovering the source of the Nile is an exciting one. The source is in fact Lake Victoria, claimed correctly (but often disputed) by explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858 at a spot in Uganda’s Jinja town. But before you head to the town itself, discover more of what the mighty river has to offer at Murchison Falls, a powerful waterfall formed as the Nile is forced through a minuscule gap in the rocks. A boat trip is the best way to see the falls in all their glory – and make sure you get a good seat on the deck for there’s plenty of wildlife-spotting to be done en route.
If this sounds up your street, use our route, Discover the source of the Nile, as your starting point for building your trip to Uganda.
6. Horse ride in Lake Mburo
There are few predators in Lake Mburo – leopard are the only big cats in the vicinity – but don’t let that put you off for it means horse riding is high on the agenda. From atop your trusty steed you’ll spot zebra, topi and eland and gallop alongside dainty herds of impala, and if two legs don’t do it for you, try game watching from two wheels on a mountain bike safari instead. A short drive from Kampala, the park is an excellent stop off on the way to Bwindi which makes adding a few days here convenient and easy.
Opt to stay at Mihingo Lodge for both horse-riding safaris and mountain bike excursions in Lake Mburo National Park.
7. Look for tree-climbing lions in Ishasha
When you’re in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, it pays to look up. Why, you may ask? Because the resident lion are often to be found lounging in the boughs of the fig trees! This unusual behaviour of tree climbing lions has only been recorded in one other area on the continent (Tanzania’s Lake Manyara), making sightings even more special – and adding some great photos to your collection too.
Our favourite camp, and one of the only ones in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth, is Ishasha Wilderness Camp, but Katara Lodge in the north also offers full-day excursions to see the tree-climbing felines.
8. Set your pulse racing in adrenalin-filled Jinja
Providing the thrill in our things to do in Uganda list is Jinja, the adventure capital of East Africa – and some might say, the continent. Rafting down the white-waters of the Nile gets things off to a pulse-racing start, but if that sounds too tame how about tandem kayaking or river boarding over the rapids instead? Bungee jumping takes place over a calmer section of the river, and if you’re looking for land adventures try a quad biking tour to Mabira Forest and then zip-line through the forest canopy at eye-level with the curious monkeys.
Read all about Uganda’s adventure capital, Jinja, here and then add the region to your route to enjoy the thrills and spills.
9. End things with some time at the beach
If you’ve worked your way through our things to do in Uganda list, it’s probably time to kick off your safari boots and head for the ocean. The country may be landlocked, but a short flight to Nairobi unlocks a wealth of dazzling beaches and bluer-then-blue seas. There’s Kenya’s beautiful Indian Ocean coastline for starters, where Diani Beach and Watamu offer a dreamy mix of water-sports and sun-lounging, but our top pick has to be the spicy, exotic island of Zanzibar…
Add some sea to your safari with our Uganda route, Bush, beach & gorillas in Uganda & Zanzibar.