The Pearl of Africa: 10 Reasons To Visit Uganda

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Uganda: The Ultimate Safari Destination

When you think about your dream East African escape, chances are you’re picturing the wide open spaces of Kenya’s Maasai Mara or Tanzania’s Serengeti.

Those wishing to trek with the beautiful mountain gorillas tend to associate them most closely with the mountains of Rwanda.

Uganda, it seems, is often overlooked in favour of one of these more well-known spots.

Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Uganda does safaris better than Rwanda and primate trekking better than Tanzania or Kenya, but can’t claim to be the top dog for either.

Despite this, Uganda’s reputation as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ is a justified one.

There are few countries in Africa that are as beautiful, and none where you can go from a traditional safari one day to sweating in the jungle in pursuit of chimpanzees or gorillas the next.

Read on to find the ten reasons to visit Uganda that ought to get your imagination running wild.

10 Reasons to Visit Uganda, The Pearl of Africa

#10 – A Pleasure Cruise on Lake Victoria

Africa’s largest lake is often overlooked by visitors to Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. In Kenya and Tanzania, its location puts it away from popular tourist destinations and national parks, but Uganda happens to have a gorgeous city right on the shores of the lake – Entebbe.

The former Ugandan capital is also home to the country’s only international airport, so it’s easy to fit in a day or two on the shores of the mighty lake at the beginning or end of your Ugandan safari.

lake victoria birding
Image courtesy of Michell Zappa

Visit the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary

For those who might not be physically prepared for chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park, Ngamba Island is a great day trip from Entebbe.

Offering both day trips and overnight chimpanzee experiences, Ngamba Island is a great place to learn more about our closest living relatives. Day trips feature the chimpanzee feeding, while longer stays allow guests to camp on the island, go hiking, and act as a chimpanzee caregiver for a day.

For the truly commited, the sanctuary also offers one week and one month volunteering positions.

Take a pleasure cruise on Lake Victoria

Who doesn’t love a sunset cruise with some good beer (or wine) and some finger food?

Pleasure cruises out on Lake Victoria are a great way to spend a relaxing couple of hours at the start or finish of your Ugandan adventure.

For avid birdwatchers, there are also guided bird-watching boat safaris to introduce you to the country’s startling array of birdlife.

source of the nile jinja uganda
Image courtesy of Stefan Krasowski

Visit the Source of the Nile in Jinja

Lake Victoria is big. While it’s most famously a part of Entebbe’s charm, you can also visit Lake Victoria at the city of Jinja.

You’ll learn more about Jinja at #7 on this list, but the adventure capital of East Africa is also home to the reported Source of the Nile.

A pleasure cruise out onto Lake Victoria to visit the fabled source of the mighty Nile is a must if you’re in the area, even if the source is little more than an eddying current of water where a waterfall used to be.

Lake Victoria Beach Holidays

It’s a sad fact that swimming in Lake Victoria is a perilous activity. Between the resident crocodiles and hippos and the lake’s problems with bilharzia (snail fever), taking a dip in Africa’s largest lake is inadvisable.

That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a few days relaxing on the beach with a good book or exploring by canoe though! The Ssese Islands archipelago in Lake Victoria are a popular place for locals and off the beaten path travelers to get away from the crowds and get back to nature.

entebbe uganda kids
Image courtesy of J Stimp

Where to Stay on Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria’s size means that there is no shortage of properties boasting waterfront access, but I’ve picked out a few of my favourite properties from my travels to recommend.

Entebbe Accommodation

In Entebbe, Boma Guesthouse is my preferred place to hang my hat. While it is not located especially close to Lake Victoria, its lovely rooms and fantastic servive make it my home away from home when I’m in Uganda for work.

If you want some waterfront access, my suggestion would be 2 Friends in the budget realm and Lake Victoria Serena in the luxury area. It’s worth noting, however, that Lake Victoria Serena is not located in Entebbe.

#9 – Experiencing the Bigodi Swamp Walk

A popular inclusion with #2 on this list, a visit to the Bigodi Wetlands is a great companion to your chimpanzee trekking adventure.

While it’s not a reason to visit Uganda all of its own, it’s certainly something a bit unique that you’re unlikely to find in Kenya, Tanzania, or Rwanda.

great blue turaco bigodi uganda
Image courtesy of Bernard Dupont

A Birder’s Paradise

The main draw of Bigodi Swamp is its dazzliny variety of bird life, with more than 200 species calling the relatively small area home.

While birding might not sound like everybody’s cup of tea, you’d be surprised how quickly you become a fan when your guide points out an especially rare find.

I’m not gonna lie, I get a bird boner for a Malachite Kingfisher.

I don’t even know what I’d do if I spotted a shoebill in the wild.

Where to Stay

Check out #2 on this list for some great accommodation recommendations in the area.

#8 – Surrendering to Serenity at Chameleon Hills

I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some truly fantastic lodges in Uganda, many of which I’ve recommended later in this post.

My favourite lodge, though, doesn’t rate a mention elsewhere because it’s not really located near anything.

While many lodges boast great access to Bwindi Impenetrable, Kibale Forest, or some other local landmark, this lodge’s isolation is a huge part of its charm.

The lodge, Chameleon Hill, is a colourful and serene escape from the world that I’ve been dying to get back to ever since my first visit.

The Location

Located in southern Uganda just a stone’s through from the Rwandan border, Chameleon Hill is technically an option for those who are gorilla trekking in either Mgahinga or Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park.

Sitting halfway between the two, it’s not an ideal starting point for either, but it does give you that flexibility.

What makes Chameleon Hill’s location such a winner, however, is its isolation.  Perched in the mountains above Lake Mutanda, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better view anywhere in Africa. It’s simply stunning.

chameleon hill uganda 2
Image courtesy of Chameleon Hill

The Lodge

Brightly coloured like something out of a Wes Anderson film, Chameleon Hill leaps out at you as you round that last bumpy bend and your car comes to a halt.

The reception and dining area vaguely resembles a fairytale castle, while each of the cute bungalow style rooms boasts its own eye-catching shade of pastel.

Couple these bright colours with the breathtaking backdrop, and you’ve got something truly picturesque.

chameleon hills food
Image courtesy of Chameleon Hill

The Food

The location was fantastic, but it’s the homemade meals that linger with me years after my last stay at Chameleon Hill.

Everything – from the meat to the ice cream to the sauces – is made on site and uses locally sourced ingredients.

On top of that, the food is just f***ing amazing. Everything we ate was exquisite, and I gave some serious thought to getting down on bended knee to propose to the gentleman doing all of the cooking.

#7 – Whitewater Rafting on the Nile

The mighty Nile may be most closely associated with Egypt, but the world’s second longest river finds its roots near the Ugandan town of Jinja.

Sometimes known as the Adventure Capital of East Africa, Jinja is a thriving adventure travel hub for those wishing to tackle Nile rapids, go ATVing, cycling, horse-riding, or even bungee-jumping.

A fun city with a young, adventurous vibe – Jinja is worthy of inclusion for anybody wanting to get their pulse racing as part of their Ugandan adventure.

whitewater rafting jinja uganda 2
Image courtesy of Hjalmar Glsason

Whitewater Rafting on the Nile

The biggest drawcard in Jinja is undoubtedly the opportunity to tackle the Nile rapids with a whitewater rafting or kayaking adventure. Kayak the Nile is the top local company when it comes to whitewater kayaking or more sedate kayak tours of the Victoria Nile.

There are, of course, a number of other options in and around Jinja – so do your research to land the best price.

jinja whitewater rafting uganda
Image courtesy of GoToUganda.com

Extreme Sports & Youth Culture

Jinja isn’t just the place to go for kayaking and whitewater rafting. Visitors can also go horseback riding, cycling, ATVing, or even fling themselves headfirst off of a cliff with Nile High Bungee Jumping.

For those with a passion for learning more about Ugandan youth culture, the annual Nyege Nyege Festival is a celebration of African music, film, food, and art.

Where to Stay in Jinja

I’ve highlighted a few good accommodation options for the Jinja area in item #6 on this list, so scroll on down to get my recommendations!

#6 – Overnight on the Nile at Wildwaters Lodge

Uganda proudly proclaims itself as one of the sources of the mighty Nile, with the Victoria Nile finding its roots near the city of Jinja in the country’s east.

As the river picks up steam, it turns into a raging torrent that really needs to be seen to be believed. My first glimpse of the tumultuous Nile was one of those moments where you have to take a moment to be sure you aren’t dreaming or seeing things.

While there are a number of lodges along the shores of The Nile that offer a great view, there is only one lodge on the Nile, and that is the stunning Wildwaters Lodge.

A Nile Canoe Adventure

Just getting to Wildwaters Lodge is a once in a lifetime adventure. You’ll trade your safari vehicle for a canoe, pile your belongings into it, and hold on as your local guide paddles you out into the seething river.

You see, Wildwaters Lodge is on an island at the very heart of the angry Nile, and you’ll be spending your night out amidst the rapids!

It doesn’t look as if your tiny boat should be able to match it with the sheer power of the Nile, but soon enough you’re through the rapids and tying up at a secluded dock to check in.

wildwaters uganda bath
Image courtesy of Wildwaters Lodge

Bathtub With a View

Wildwaters sits on an island in the middle of the Nile and each of their luxurious rooms overlooks the churning waters of the famous river.

Each of the rooms has a real feeling of African exploration to it, with glistening hardwood and comfortable four-poster beds for guests.

While there’s a perfectly good bathroom indoors, my favourite element of Wildwaters Lodge’s rooms is undoubtedly the old-school claw foot bathtub on the balcony.

It’s a pretty surreal feeling to be lounging in a bubble bath out under the stars while the Nile rushes by just past your feet.

wildwaters uganda hotel lemala
Image courtesy of Wildwaters Lodge

Amazing Food

A special mention also has to go to the restaurant at Wildwaters. They do a fantastic multiple course meal at the lodge, and you eat it in an open air banda with a brilliant view of the Nile as it races by.

I particularly enjoyed the feeling of sipping an ice cold Nile beer while the Nile rushed by my feet.

Other Accommodation on the Nile

Wildwaters is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of lodge that I’d recommend at the drop of a hat, but it comes with a hefty price tag that might make it a bridge too far for some travellers.

Thankfully, there are some great accommodations on the banks of the Nile that offer you a similar experience at a fraction of the price.

Haven Eco River Bush Lodge is probably my pick as the best alternative. Situated on a hill overlooking the rapids, it’s got some lovely private huts that are perfect for a romantic getaway.

From a budget perspective, Source of the Smile Guesthouse does the job. The staff are a bit disinterested and its a bit of a tacky tourist trap, but you can’t argue with its pricing. Their restaurant has some decent local and western options too.

#5 – Walk with Rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

It’s a sad fact that it is no longer possible to see rhinoceros in the wild in Uganda, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t see them. In fact, Uganda offers you the chance to get much closer than you’re likely to get on safari in Tanzania, Kenya, or South Africa.

white rhino ziwa
Image courtesy of Rod Waddington

Visiting the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Located midway between Jinja (source of the Nile) and Murchison Falls National Park, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary offers visitors the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk alongside the most endangered member of the Big Five.

A charitable organisation that acts as home to nineteen white rhinoceros, Ziwa lets you step out of the 4WD and walk side by side with these impressive specimens.

Accompanied by an armed ranger and with a strict pre-hike briefing, you’ll venture out onto the plains to track a rhinoceros and observe it as it grazes and moves through the sanctuary.

My Rhino Trekking Experience

I paid Ziwa a visit in November of 2016 and was lucky enough to track a young mother and her calf in the wilderness.

The inquisitive young calf was constantly drawn to us, forcing us to stealthily backpedal through the undergrowth lest we earn its mother’s ire.

We never felt unsafe, but it’s hard not to respect the motherly instict of an animal with as much weight as the car you’ve been driving in all day.

It’s an amazing experience and one I’ll forever treasure.

Spending the Night

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is ideally located at the halfway point between Jinja and Murchison Falls, so it’s entirely possible to make your way there on your way north.

Alternatively, it can also be arranged as a day trip from the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

But if you’re feeling like you’d like a more leisurely visit, there are accommodation and dining facilities on site. You can even camp!

#4 – Witness the Raw Power of Murchison Falls

One of Uganda’s two popular safari destinations, Murchison Falls National Park’s location in the northeast of the country means that it is often overlooked in favour of more accessible parks such as Queen Elizabeth or Lake Mburo.

If you’re looking for the authentic safari experience, don’t let Murchison Falls’ isolated location put you off. It is a park of wild and rugged beauty that deserves your attention.

What Animals Can I See?

Like Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls is home to four of the Big Five – with elephants and buffalo being common sightings and big cats such as lions and leopards being less so.

While rhinos, zebras, and cheetahs are not present, there is an abundance of hippos and giraffes, as well as crocodiles, Ugandan kob, and hyenas. In fact, this is the best park in Uganda for spotting giraffes.

A Murchison Falls game drive involves a ferry ride over the bloated Nile to get into the park, which is an experience in and of itself.

See the Murchison Falls

The real drawcard in the park are the waterfalls for which the park is named.

Thought of as the most powerful waterfall in the world, Murchison Falls sees the mighty Nile reduced to a raging torrent as it is forced through a tight space to continue its long journey north.

The raw power of the waterfall is hard to fully describe. You’ll barely be able to hear yourself as you approach and the mists thrown up by the churning torrent mean the entire climb is one shrouded in cool spray.

Whether you hike to the top to see it up close or take in the view of seething waves of foam from a boat below, you’re going to bear witness to a truly awe-inspiring display of nature’s power.

A Nile Boat Ride

Another popular activity in Murchison Falls National Park is to take a scenic boat safari out onto the Nile proper.

Much like the boat safari in Kazinga Channel, this offers you an excellent opportunity to spot crocodiles and hippos, as well as animals stopping by the Victoria Nile for a drink. Birds are also present in a startling variety.

The highlight of the boat ride is unquestionably the chance to stop near the base of Murchison Falls for a view of the mighty waterfall, and adventurous photographers can even step nimbly from the boat and out onto a tumble of rocks at the centre of the Nile for their photos.

Where to Stay in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is a bit more off the beaten track than Queen Elizabeth, meaning accommodation variety is a little more limited.

Nonetheless, there’s something for all budgets in the park.

Budget Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Red Chilli Hideaway is the only real budget accommodation near the park, and boasts a mixture of private bandas, tented camps, and budget camping on their property.

Despite its lower price tag, this is still a facility with plenty of charm, delicious meals, and a fun, social vibe. They can even arrange game drives for those without their own car or tour arranged.

Medium Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

Located right on the banks of the Nile, Murchison River Lodge is a great option for those looking for a comfortable place to stay without breaking the bank.

The food and service at the lodge is first class, and the tented accommodations are super comfortable.

Luxury Accommodation in Murchison Falls National Park

The decadent Baker’s Lodge is my choice for the best luxury option in Murchison Falls National Park. Run by the fantastic Uganda Exclusive Lodges brand, Baker’s Lodge blends luxury accommodations with the adventurous spirit of Africa’s early European explorers.

Baker’s Lodge was my base for exploring the park in 2016, and I absolutely loved my experience.

You don’t get much closer to the action than this, with the lodge’s tents regularly receiving visits from curious hippos at night. For those wanting a truly authentic African experience, just wait until you’re being accompanied back to your tent by a flashlight wielding security guard to make sure you don’t fall afoul of a startled hippo!

A Note on Bookings

A lot of these properties aren’t on sites like Booking.com, but you can get access to reduced rates by booking through a certified travel agent. Luckily, I happen to be one!

Contact me if you’d like some help in planning your Ugandan safari.

#3 – Game Drive in Queen Elizabeth National Park

It’s fair to say that the likes of the Serengeti National Park, the Maasai Mara, and South Africa’s Kruger National Park are amongst the best game drive destinations in the world. When it comes to sheer wildlife diversity and numbers, these larger parks have it all over Queen Elizabeth National Park.

But as you photograph tree climbing lions in Ishasha or sit by a crackling fire and listen to the distant trumpeting of elephants, it’s hard to care that other places might be doing it better.

What Animals Can I See?

Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to four of the big five, with lions, elephants, and buffalo being especially common throughout the park. In particular, the Ishasha section in the park’s south is home to tree-climbing lions. This is a phenomenon that only occurs in a few places on earth!

While you’re missing a few iconic African animals such as giraffes, rhinos, and zebra, this is made up for by the presence of more unique sightings such as the Ugandan kob, sitatunga, and topi antelope.

You’ll also find an abundance of hippos and crocodiles along the shores of the Kazinga Channel, and both black and white colobus monkeys and chimpanzees dwelling in certain areas of the park.

Chimpanzee Trekking in Queen Elizabeth National Park

A quick note on the presence of chimpanzees in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

While it is entirely possible to arrange a chimpanzee trekking tour as part of your stay in the park, I really would recommend paying a little extra to do it in Kibale Forest National Park. Trekking conditions are infinitely better in Kibale, and you’ve got a far greater chance of actually seeing something.

Unbeatable Location

What makes Queen Elizabeth National Park so worthwhile is its unbeaten location. Located at the halfway between the chimpanzees of Kibale and the gorillas of Bwindi-Impenetrable, it’s the perfect place to spend a few days between your primate trekking adventures.

Many people wishing to see both of Uganda’s iconic primates will spend a night or two in Queen Elizabeth to break up the long drive and to check a few more animals off of their African bucket list.

kazinga channel queen elizabeth uganda
Image courtesy of Christine Olson

Kazinga Channel Boat Safari

A 20 mile long natural channel that connects Lake Edward and Lake George, Kazinga Channel is a unique feature of Queen Elizabeth that offers something you won’t find in other parks.

Taking a boat out onto the channel offers you the chance to spot hippos and crocodiles up close, and there’s ample opportunity to also spot buffalo, elephants, antelopes, and big cats as they come to the shores to get a drink.

But its for bird-watching that Kazinga excels, and even the most disinterested birder is going to come away with a newfound appreciation of just how beautiful Africa’s bird species can be.

Don’t believe me? Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to the largest variety of birds in all of East Africa’s protected areas.

ishasha uganda queen elizabeth safari
Image courtesy of floschen

Where to Stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park’s accessibility makes it a great safari destination for travellers on a budget.

Where large parks like the Maasai Mara and Serengeti tend to cater towards those with a substantial budget, Queen Elizabeth has backpacker friendly accommodations located just a stone’s throw from the action.

Budget Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth National Park

It’s rare to find dormitory accommodation near a safari park, but Simba Safari Camp offers just that.

I stayed here in 2015 and found it to be totally fine. The rooms are a bit dated and the place has a very ‘budget’ vibe to it, but there are also private rooms available.

The outdoor common area for meals has a fun ‘BBQ in the park’ kind of feel. The WiFi is near to non-existent.

For those on a tight budget, they also offer campsites.

Medium Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth National Park

My two favourite lodges in Queen Elizabeth National Park would be Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge and Marafiki Safari Lodge.

Queen Elizabeth Bush Lodge was my base in the park in 2016 and feels like you’re truly at the heart of Africa. Your tented accommodation has a rustic outdoor shower and you’ll fall asleep lulled by the chortling of wading hippos in the nearby river.

Marafiki has a more clean, modern look to it – but also offers dorm accommodation to complement its tented rooms. It sits atop a hill and has a great view of the surrounding land.

Luxury Accommodation in Queen Elizabeth National Park

My favourite luxury lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park is undoubtedly Katara Lodge. A newer lodge that opened in 2015, its private tented accommodation looks out over a sprawling landscape that speaks to the awesome natural beauty of Africa.

I was a big fan of the outdoor dining area and the friendliness of the staff, and can’t wait to have a long stay at the property so I can enjoy the serenity upon which it markets itself.

A Note on Bookings

A lot of these properties aren’t on sites like Booking.com, but you can get access to reduced rates by booking through a certified travel agent. Luckily, I happen to be one!

Contact me if you’d like some help in planning your Ugandan safari.

#2 – Chimpanzee Trekking & Habituation in Kibale Forest

If there is one thing that Uganda does better than anybody else, it’s chimpanzee trekking

Forget what you’ve heard about chimpanzee trekking in Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda – Uganda’s Kibale Forest National Park is the best place to see our closest primate relatives in their natural habitat.

Chimpanzee Trekking

Far and away the most popular thing to do in Kibale Forest National Park is the half-day chimpanzee trekking experience.

A comparatively affordable $120 USD per person, the chimpanzee trekking experience starts at around 7am and sees you traipsing through the cool forest air in pursuit of the chimpanzees who call the park home.

The chimps here are wild but slightly habituated. They aren’t going to stick around for you to snap photos of, but they’re also not so afraid of you that they’ll immediately flee at the snapping of a branch.

Where in Rwanda you’re forced to literally run after the chimpanzees, here you’re able to approach at a more sedate pace. It’s a relatively easy hike that sees you moving with the family as it hoots, hollers, swings, and drums its way through the treetops overhead.

Actual trekking groups are quite small – no more than 4-8 people per group – but you’ll doubtless cross paths with other groups as your guides share notes.

It’s a hell of an experience, and one I’d consider a must in Rwanda.

chimpanzee trekking kibale uganda
Image courtesy of Rod Waddington

Chimpanzee Habituation

For those with a more keen passion for all things chimpanzee, it’s also possible to arrange a full day chimpanzee habituation in which you’ll track the chimps from dusk ’til dawn.

You’ll observe the chimpanzees as they feed, sleep, play, and travel – spending your entire day out in the wilderness.

I’ve not had the pleasure of trying this myself as of yet, but my friends and clients who have raved about the experience as a far more intimate, less-crowded way to see the chimps.

chimpanzee tracking group uganda
Image courtesy of floschen

Where to Stay in Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is serviced by some great local accommodation options, and the nearby town of Fort Portal also has some good options for all budgets.

Budget Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park

The cheapest option in the area is Ruboni Community Camp, which has both private cottages, campsites, and hostel-style dorm rooms.

Medium Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park

I’ve been lucky enough to stay in two wonderfully rustic lodges in the Kibale Forest Area, with both Kibale Forest Camp and Primate Lodge offering comfortable accommodations that feel very much a part of the surrounding forest.

Primate Lodge has a fantastic location that puts you just a few hundred metres walk from the chimpanzee trekking start point, while Kibale Forest Camp definitely feels like you’re at the heart of an African jungle.

Luxury Accommodation in Kibale Forest National Park

It’s not especially close to the park, but I can’t speak highly enough of the lavish Kyaninga Lodge. Located on the rim of an ancient volcanic crater, this lodge has spectacular views and an adorable ‘European adventurer’ motif that makes you feel every bit like the explorers of old.

Ndali Lodge is also a wonderful option, with the family-run business feeling more like a luxurious B&B than a hotel. The food is delicious, the dogs are friendly, and the pool is a great way to unwind after your chimpanzee trekking adventure.

Both of these lodges put you a little far from the action, so a more centrally located option might be Kluge’s Farm.

#1 – Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park

While neighbouring Rwanda may be more famous when it comes to gorilla trekking, Uganda remains the most economical option for those wanting to see these gentle giants in their natural habitat.

Rwanda’s recent decision to jack up prices to $1,500 USD per person has priced many gorilla enthusiasts out of ever achieving their dream, but Ugandan gorilla permits remain stable at a relatively affordable $600 USD per person.

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda

It’s true that Rwanda offers more accommodation options and an easier hike than Uganda, but in my mind, there’s something very fitting about the hard slog through the jungle. I’ve written before about my own gorilla trekking experience and how I felt like I had earned my precious hour with the gorillas, and I think that’s a big part of the charm.

Every pained breath, every drop of sweat, every scratch from thorns, and ever muddy stumble is the price you pay to spend an hour in quiet contemplation alongside those beautiful creatures. Gorilla trekking is tantamount to a religious experience.

gorilla trekking uganda bwindi
Image courtesy of Rod Waddington

Getting to Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park

It’s true that Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park is a bit difficult to get to from Entebbe. There’s a long ten-hour drive between Uganda’s only international airport and Bwindi.

Thankfully, you can visit Bwindi as part of an eight-day Ugandan safari circuit that includes Kibale Forest National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. You then swing through Lake Mburo National Park on your way back to Entebbe.

Alternatively, you can go gorilla trekking from Rwanda. You’ll land in Kigali, make the stunningly scenic six-hour drive north to Bwindi, and then return to Kigali. It gives you access to a much more well-connected airport and ends up being a shorter drive.

gorilla tracking scouts uganda
Image courtesy of Rod Waddington

Other Activities in Bwindi National Park

Gorilla trekking is obviously the main attraction in Bwindi-Impenetrable, but the area around Buhoma is quite stunning. Dense mountain rainforest surrounds a quaint little mountain town where upmarket hotels rub shoulder with local businesses.

Popular activities within the park include hiking to a picturesque waterfall, visiting with the local Batwa pygmy population, or take a longer hike between local settlements.

Where to Stay When Gorilla Trekking in Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park

It’s important to note that Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park is a large park (more than 32,000 square kilometres) and that the gorillas range wherever they please within this space.

With that being said, specific families tend to range in specific areas, so there are a number of ‘hubs’ that exist.

The most popular of these is Buhoma, but other smaller centres include Rushaga and Nkuringo.

Budget Accommodation in Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park

My two budget picks for this area would be Buhoma Community Rest Camp or Rushaga Gorilla Camp.

Both of these properties offer backpacker style dorm rooms and private rooms, making it a good way to save some money after dropping $600 USD on a gorilla permit.

Medium Accommodation in Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park

My go-to option in the affordable luxury tier would be Buhoma Haven Lodge, which affords a spectacular view of both Buhoma and the surrounding forest.

It’s a bit of a hike to get up to your room, but you won’t be complaining when you’re sitting out on your private deck after your gorilla trek with a cold beer in hand.

Luxury Accommodation in Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park

Mahogany Springs is, in my mind, the best lodge when gorilla trekking in Uganda.

I’ve had the pleasure of staying at Mahogany Springs in both 2015 and 2016, and both times I was met with the same fantastic rooms, wonderful service, fantastic food, and spectacular location.

The staff there are so good that they remembered me a year on and knew exactly what my beer order was.

And, it’s a small thing, but their free shoe-cleaning service is a life saver after gorilla trekking.


So many reasons to love Uganda

As might be evident after reading my 5,000+ word love letter to Uganda, I’ve got a bit of a crush on the country.

My two week long explorations of the Pearl of Africa have only served to whet my appetite.

I’ll forever love Africa, but it’s Uganda that holds the largest portion of my heart.

It is wild and vibrant in a way that speaks to me of the Africa I’d always imagined.

While tourism is a continually growing industry in the region, it can still be daunting to plan a trip to Uganda.

Thankfully, I’m here to help.

As a safari expert with Shadows of Africa, I can not only help you with your itinerary, but I can also get you great discounts on hotels and activities. Contact me below!

Click the image below to send me an email and start planning your dream safari!

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