Uganda is called the Pearl of Africa for good reasons: it is lush, beautiful, filled with wildlife and the people are wonderful.
Conservation in Uganda
Despite a history of poverty, political turmoil and civil war from the 1960-1980s, Uganda has managed to protect its most biologically important regions. Nearly 15% of Uganda’s land is national parks, forests and game reserves. The chain of refuges in the Albertine Rift along the western border harbors half the world’s mountain gorillas, as well as chimpanzees, hippos, elephants, lions and more, in a rich patchwork of habitats. Little wildlife remains outside of parks, however, and Uganda’s dense rural population puts extreme pressure on protected areas. Poaching for bushmeat, illegal logging, charcoal burning and encroachment for farmland all pose major threats. Newer challenges include the discovery of oil and climate change. Yet figures show that buffalo, giraffe, elephant, impala, zebra and waterbuck numbers have risen in the last decade, benefiting from improved monitoring, incentives for local communities to protect wildlife, and expulsion of rebels from the country.
Quick Uganda Facts
At 91,000 square miles, landlocked Uganda is about the size of Oregon or the United Kingdom. Most of the country lies above 4,000 feet, moderating its equatorial climate. The northeast is arid while the glacier-capped southwest mountains, bordering Congo, receive heavy rain year-round. About 1/3 of Uganda is covered with rivers, lakes and swamps. Uganda obtained independence from Britain in 1962. Since 1986, Uganda has been a largely stable republic with a growing economy. Subsistence agriculture employs 80% of Ugandans, and tourism contributes 8% of GDP. English is the official language. Luganda, Swahili and 30 indigenous languages are also spoken. Uganda’s cultural mosaic includes Bantus that are offshoots of medieval kingdoms and Pygmies descended from ancient hunter-gatherers. The mostly rural population of 32 million is growing at 3.6%, exerting great pressure on Uganda’s natural resources. The capital Kampala and nearby Entebbe are Uganda’s major cities, located in the south on Lake Victoria.
Uganda Safari Highlights
Compact Uganda is a microcosm of African wildlife and environments, offering diverse safari experiences. Gorilla trekking is the high point of any itinerary. To track these wondrous creatures through misty forests and gaze into their equally curious eyes is a wildlife encounter without parallel. Chimps are the highlight at Kibale Forest, which harbors the greatest variety and concentration of primates in Africa, and an amazing assortment of tropical birds. Scenic Queen Elizabeth National Park stretches from the crater-pocked foothills of the Rwenzori Range—the “Mountains of the Moon”—to the remote Ishasha River. Its varied habitats range from gallery and lowland forest to wetlands and savannah, where classic plains games graze. Boat cruises on Kazinga Channel and in Lake Mburo National Park offer front-row views of hippo, crocodile and waterbirds. At Murchison Falls, witness the Victoria Nile plummets 130 feet into Lake Albert.
Situated in the heart of Africa astride the equator, Uganda offers mesmerizing natural beauty and superb wildlife viewing. One of the last refuges of the mountain gorilla, Uganda’s rainforests also shelter chimpanzees and monkeys—the world’s best destination for primate tracking Birding is also spectacular. To the east lies open savanna, where plains animals and predators roam in abundance. Uganda’s rivers—including the White Nile, birthed in Lake Victoria—teem with hippo and crocodile. To experience the diverse riches of Uganda is to concur with Sir Winston Churchill that it is “end to end one beautiful garden.”
Uganda has become a very accessible destination which can be reached by air or land.
Several airlines fly to Uganda, including Air Tanzania, Air Uganda, British Airways, Brussels Air, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airways, Gulf Air, Kenya Airways, KLM, Precision Air, Qatar Airways, Rwanda air, South African Airways and Turkish Airlines. International flights generally arrive into the modern Entebbe International Airport (EBB) located one hour from the capital of Kampala.
There are safe, easy but lengthy bus routes into Kampala from Kenya (Nairobi), Tanzania (Bukoba, Dar es Salaam), Rwanda (Kigali) and Burundi (Bujumbura). The borders with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are more risky – be sure to research the current travel situation as well as visa requirements before attempting travel to or from these countries.
Getting around Uganda has never been easier — flexibility exists in use of private or public transport, with the improved transport network and extended communication facilities to even the remotest National Parks.
Traveling around Uganda is a true adventure. There are several ways to get around, and the option you choose will depend upon your time constraints and your budget. Travelling by road is the most accessible and cheapest way to travel, and public transport connects all major locations, and ventures far off the beaten track. For those short of time, domestic flights are available to many of the national parks.
Tour Operator and Public Transport:
Buses, taxis, VIP vans and several touring trucks operated by individual tour operators are available to help travelers reach their destinations. Motorcycle taxis, known as boda-bodas, can always be used for short distances. Safety can be a concern so it’s not recommended to travel without a helmet.
Self-drive options are best left for return visitors to the country and more seasoned travelers who are accustomed to driving in a variety of road conditions. You may find you are more comfortable leaving the driving up to a local driver guide who will also give you an interpretive commentary while you enjoy the scenic view.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What’s the best time of year to come to Uganda?
There is no bad time of year to visit Uganda. Even during the rainy seasons (March – June and October – November) it may rain for only one or two hours before the sun shines again. It rarely gets cold, but it is advisable to carry lightweight rain gear in the rainy season. It can get cold at night (especially in high areas such as Sipi / Mount Elgon, the Rwenzoris and Kisoro / Kabale) so bring a light jumper or a scarf.
Which international airlines access Uganda?
From Europe, major carriers are: British Airways, Brussels Airlines, KLM and Turkish Airlines, all of which fly directly to Entebbe. International carriers from Europe connect with most North American carriers. Major African Airlines include: Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, Air Tanzania and South African Airways. From the Middle East and South East Asia, check with Emirates or Qatar Air.
What other expenses should I expect after quoted safari costs?
Unless otherwise stated, tour prices quoted are ex-Kampala and include transport with fuel and driver/guide, accommodation, meals on safari, National Park and activity fees associated with your itinerary.
Clients will be directly responsible for airfare to/from Uganda, Visa fees if applicable, airport transfers, meals and accommodation in Kampala, transport in and around Kampala, supplemental activities not included in the itinerary, refreshments and beverages (between meal snacks, alcohol, other refreshments), personal items (porterage, telephone calls and souvenirs), tips and gratuities. Coffee and tea are usually available with meals in up-country properties and drinking water may be provided. It is advisable to always check what is included in menu prices.
How do I pay for my safari?
Most of our clients pay by wire transfers or credit card. Bank details are available upon request. With Managers’ approval, credit card payments can be made, but please note there is a 7-9% surcharge. In Kampala cash payments are accepted in any foreign convertible currency and in Uganda Shillings.
What deposit do I need to pay?
Gorilla tracking safaris require US$600 per permit to secure a permit. For all other safaris, a 50% deposit is required 10 weeks before intended departure or at the time of booking with the balance to be settled 30 days prior to commencement of the tour.
What kind of vehicle will I travel in?
We drive you in a 4WD safari vehicles, air conditioned with enough leg room and open roof that will make you comfortable through out your safari and also make it easier for your game viewing.
Can I fly internally?
Yes, charter flights are available to almost all safari destinations, but be aware that charter costs are high. A limited number of internal scheduled flights are available so booking in advance is also very essential.
How far in advance do I need to book a gorilla permit?
Book as far in advance as possible to avoid disappointment. Permits are sold up to 2 years in advance!
What should I wear when gorilla tracking?
We recommend: a breathable and lightweight rain jacket or poncho, a warm jacket or fleece for overcast days and evening, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, sturdy waterproof walking boots (seasoned or well worn footwear), leather gardening type gloves, sunscreen, cap or sun hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, comfortable day pack for carrying water and minimum amount of personal items. Cameras and video cameras are allowed, but bring film and batteries from Kampala.
How do you deal with tipping?
Ugandans tip according to level of service and there are no fixed or assumed rates. Culturally people may not feel it appropriate to outwardly show their appreciation for money given, however salaries are generally low in Uganda compared to neighboring tourism destinations and all tips will be greatly appreciated. Tipping will depend on the level of satisfaction you derive from the service offered. Tips are very personal and this is only a guide. Feel free to ask for advice.
Do I need to carry my passport and travel documents?
We recommend that you leave original travel documents and passports with us in our safe (if you wish) and travel with photocopies. East African residents will need to show copy of Passports and Work Permits to obtain resident discounts. Most hotels and lodges have safe deposit boxes available.
Do the drivers speak English?
Yes, all PearlAfric Tours and Travel drivers/guides speak English and other local languages. If you require drivers or guides who speak other international languages, please let us know in advance and we can organize this for you.
Is Uganda safe?
Occasional security issues may arise as in any other developing country. PearlAfric Tours and Travel maintains up-to-date information on all parts of the Country and will advise Clients accordingly at the time of booking if any risks appear to be present. Basic precautions should be taken, as in all countries, and common sense should be used. It is not advised to display expensive jewelry, leave bags unattended or leave money lying around. Generally, Uganda is considered to be a safe and very welcoming country.
How much time should I expect to spend in the vehicle in any one day?
The longest day of travel is for a three-day gorilla tour and this can be up to nine hours in a vehicle. During this journey several stops will be made, including a visit to the Equator, a stop for lunch, and other stops for refreshments and other facilities. Most itineraries will not require any more than five hours in a vehicle in one day. Again various stops are made to ensure your comfort.
What should I expect to see on Safari?
The large mammals vary from park to park. In general, a safari including two or more parks, will include Elephant, Buffalo, Hippo, Lion, Crocodiles, Uganda Kob, Bush buck, Water buck, Reed buck, Warthogs, Hyena, to name a few. Leopard sightings are rare, although they do live in most parks in the country. Rhinos can be seen in Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary near Masindi, and Impala, Zebra – and occasionally Eland – may be seen in Lake Mburo. Giraffe are only found in Murchison Falls and Kidepo. Cheetah can be seen in Kidepo in northern Uganda, a fabulously beautiful and unspoilt part of the country.
Uganda is one of the best places in the world to view Chimpanzees with trekking available in Kibale Forest, Kyambura and many other forested areas in Uganda. Gorilla tracking safaris are at Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks in the far southwest of the country, with access also available in Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire). Fourteen other species of primates can be seen in Uganda.
Uganda’s strategic position on the Albertine Rift Valley makes it home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna. More than 1,060 species of birds can be viewed, including many migrating birds. Unique species of butterflies are also found.
Pace of Life: Uganda is relatively new to tourism, compared to Kenya and Tanzania. The infrastructure, accommodation, transport network and quality and availability of services and facilities are basic by Western standards.
Rest assured that Parkview Safaris will do everything in its power to ensure you have the most enjoyable and comfortable trip, we are determined to ensuring that all our clients are satisfied and get value out of their money.
Gorilla Tracking: This is a strenuous activity and one should be physically fit to enjoy gorilla trekking. Professional guides will accompany groups through the forests for Gorilla Tracking experience. Minimum age is fifteen years. Anyone with signs of communicable disease like cough, runny nose, diarrhea and others will not be allowed to trek.
The tracking experience takes a couple of hours (Up to 8 hours) depending on the location of Gorillas and where they slept the previous night and you are allowed to spend up to one hour with the Gorillas at a minimum distance of 7 meters.
No flash photography is allowed and fast film is therefore recommended (minimum 400-1600 ASA). Personal DVD recorders are allowed. Special arrangements need to be made for professional film makers, and filming permits are required for commercial photography and filming.
We strongly recommend a breathable and lightweight rain jacket or poncho, a warm jacket or fleece for overcast days and evening, long-sleeved shirt and trousers, sturdy waterproof walking boots (seasoned or well worn footwear), leather gardening-type gloves, sunscreen, cap or sun hat, sunglasses, insect repellent, comfortable day pack for carrying water and minimum amount of personal items. Cameras and video cameras are allowed, but come along with film batteries
Accommodation: Accommodation facilities in Uganda are up to standard with many a variety of hotels and accommodation
Electricity and piped/mains water supply may not always be available, although clients will always find a hot shower waiting for them after a long day’s trek. In some remote locations, ‘long-drop’ or compost (eco) toilets may be found.
Food may be basic, but you are usually assured of fresh produce and a variety of tropical fruits which taste so much better than supermarket imports in the West! The more upmarket lodges and hotels offer excellent facilities on a par with other safari destinations.
Parkview safaris takes care in booking the best accommodation available for your budget. All of our prepared itineraries start from Kampala. If you require pre or post-safari hotel bookings in Kampala please advise us and we will make the necessary arrangements. Reservations should be made in advance to avoid disappointment.
Health/Medical: More adventurous activities such as mountaineering and hiking, gorilla trekking and chimp tracking, white-water rafting, canoeing and kayaking may pose additional risks and should be undertaken with care and caution. You are therefore required to be physically fit and healthy
Gorilla trekking and Chimp tracking are not permitted to those individuals who have signs of a communicable disease such as colds, flu and other airborne diseases. Chimps and gorillas are highly susceptible to human diseases and it is therefore essential that you declare all illnesses and seek our advice if you are unsure. National Park Authorities reserve the right to deny access to individuals they consider unfit to accompany any activity.
Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellents are essential. Seek advice from your home country on vaccination and inoculation requirements, a Yellow Fever card is required by law.
Please bring all personal medications required. Medical services and facilities are basic. Clients are fully responsible for securing adequate medical insurance which should include evacuation cover.
It is recommended that you drink bottled or boiled water only. Sodas, beer and alcoholic beverages are generally considered safe. Coffee and tea, as well as fresh fruit juices, are prepared with boiled water.
Airport: Most guests arrive by air, landing at Entebbe International Airport. The drive to/from Entebbe and Kampala City is approximately 45 minutes. We can organize transfers to and from the airport for any size group.
Airlines: Several airlines service Uganda regularly including Air Tanzania, British Airways, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Emirates Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, South African Airways and Brussels Airlines. There are also several airline companies such as aerolink, eagle air offering domestic flights within the East African region. However, chartered flights are quite expensive.
Visas: Single entry (usually three month) tourist visas are available on arrival at Entebbe airport priced at USD $50 and at the land borders. We recommend clients obtain them on arrival.
Uganda follows a policy of reciprocity (if your Country requires a Visa for Ugandans to enter, Uganda will impose the same). Irish Nationals do not require visas. Check with us directly or contact the airline or your travel agent.
Roads: Main roads are generally good and recent road works have much improved the road network in and around Kampala. Secondary roads vary in quality and may be poorly maintained. Be prepared for long and sometimes bumpy car journeys especially in remote villages and some tourism attraction sites. This is another experience you should not miss while in Uganda, it’s really fun.
Climate: Uganda is on the Equator which gives it an ideal climate with little variation. Mean temperatures are between 21ºC and 31ºC all year round. There are two rainy seasons from March to April and October to November. Travel is often slower in the rainy season and trekking more difficult. Mountainous areas tend to be much colder than the plains and receive more rain. Temperatures in mountainous areas can go down to 10°C in certain months. Lodges and other facilities are open all year round. There is no bad time of year to visit Uganda!
Clothing: Light summer cotton clothing supplemented by a sweater or jacket should be sufficient all year round for most of Uganda. In the hilly and mountainous areas, waterproof jackets or ponchos, strong waterproof walking boots and warmer fleece or heavy sweaters will be required in the evening. Informal dress is usual, although Ugandans appreciate modest dressing. Cotton slacks and flat comfortable walking shoes are recommended on safari. Don’t forget to bring a hat and sun protection, along with your swimsuit. Request additional details at the time of booking for specific areas
Security: Occasional security issues may arise as in any other developing country. Parkview Safaris maintains up-to-date information on all parts of the country and we will advise clients accordingly at the time of booking, if any risks appear to be present. Basic precautions should be taken, as in all countries, and common sense should be used. It is not advised to display expensive jewelry, leave bags unattended or money lying around. Most hotels and lodges have safe deposit boxes available.
Photography: No photographs of, or near, military buildings or soldiers are allowed. It is only polite to ask people before taking photographs.
Film and other photographic equipment/supplies are available in Uganda. Fast film (400-1600 ASA) is recommended for gorilla tracking and forest walking. For digital photography, we recommended you bring extra batteries and a car charger. If you have special requirements, then we strongly suggest that you come with the necessary equipment to avoid disappointments.
Most accommodation will have facilities for recharging batteries used by audio/visual equipment. Feel free to confirm in advance.
Telephone/Internet: International telephone communication is good from Kampala but more difficult in some rural areas. Uganda has a good mobile phone network throughout most of the country and local SIM cards can be purchased throughout the Country. International roaming facilities are available.
Internet services are widely available in Kampala through internet cafes, and most major towns will have access, although the quality and speed of the connection varies.
All our drivers/guides have cell phones and maintain contact with the Head Office throughout safaris.
Alcohol: Several brands of local and international beer are available, including leading local beers: Bell, Club, Pilsner and Nile Special beers. Most spirits and wines are imported and are readily available. Drinking and driving is prohibited and purchase of alcohol under the age of 18 years is also illegal.
Currency: The currency in Uganda is the Uganda Shilling. It is issued in denominations of 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 Uganda Shillings notes. Coins are available for smaller denominations of 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 shillings.
US dollar, GB Pound and EURO are readily exchangeable. Large US dollar bills attract the best exchange rates. Currency exchange rates vary and are posted at all banks and forex bureaus around Kampala and in the local newspapers.
It is recommended that you change money in Kampala prior to safari where more favorable rates are offered. Attempting to change money upcountry can be frustrating and the rates are not good.
NB: US Dollar bills pre-2000 are most often not accepted in Uganda or are exchanged at a less favorable rate. Poor quality foreign currency notes may be rejected. Please ensure you bring with you new or notes in excellent condition with no stains or tears.
Credit Cards: AMEX, VISA and MASTERCARD may be accepted at a few choice establishments in Kampala and some upcountry hotels and lodges. Kindly note that credit cards are not widely accepted and most organizations reserve the right to levy a surcharge on credit card transactions, usually 7 – 9% on top of the original cost.
Banking: Several international banks operate in Uganda including Barclays, Standard Chartered, Stanbic, and Citi Bank. Many local banks and forex bureaus also operate across the country. Generally the banking hours are 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday. Some institutions are open longer hours and on Saturdays.
Begging/Donations: We do not recommend clients give money to beggars or street children as this only lends to the culture of begging and dependency. Donations can be made to established international and local charities that work with the homeless, street children or orphans.
We can arrange visits to local projects or institutions on request. If personal donations are preferred, we would suggest exercise books, pens or pencils are useful gifts.
Tipping: Ugandans tip according to level of service and there are no fixed or assumed rates. Culturally people may not feel it appropriate to outwardly show their appreciation for money given, however salaries are generally low in Uganda compared to neighboring tourism destinations and all tips will be greatly appreciated.
Drinking Water: We recommend that you do not drink tap water. Most hotels and restaurants provide previously boiled drinking water, or you can opt from several brands of mineral water.
Foods: Fresh tropical fruits and vegetables abound throughout the country. A wide range of dishes, both traditional and international, are served in the hotels and restaurants. If you have any dietary restrictions, please advice in advance. And if you have to have yellow mustard or black pepper to enjoy your meal, bring it with you.
Language: The official language is English. Kiswahili and Luganda are commonly spoken throughout the country. We actually speak over 40 languages in Uganda since we have got over 40 tribes with different cultures, languages, ways of life and historical backgrounds; therefore expect true African cultural expedition!
Luggage: Airlines will offer you 20-40 Kg, or two pieces, of luggage on most flights. It is preferable for you to use soft luggage as space in vehicles is limited. We can arrange the storage of winter clothes that you will not need on safari.
Security: Precautions should be taken as in any major city. Unless safely deposit boxes are available in your hotel or lodge, always carry travel documents, travelers cheques, cash and other valuables with you at all times or leave them in the possession of Parkview Safaris. If you leave your travel documents behind with us, travel with a photocopy. Guard yourself and your valuables as you would anywhere in the world. Stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious but friendly where possible.
Sports Facilities: There are a variety of sports available in Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja city centres – squash, golf, tennis, etc.; Fishing on Lake Victoria or the Nile River is popular. Whitewater rafting and flat water canoeing has been introduced on the River Nile. Whitewater rafting on the Nile from Jinja is considered the best one day trip in the world. Mountain climbing and hiking are popular in the Rwenzori Mountains and on Mount Elgon. For special offers and requests, please let us know in advance.
Transport: The roads are generally in good condition. Four-wheel drive vehicles may be required for upcountry use, especially in the national parks during the rainy seasons. We drive you in a 4WD safari vehicle with enough legroom, open roof and air conditioned, making you much comfortable during your safari. For special needs, kindly let us know in advance
Respect the Environment:
Obey Park Rules at all times. ln many places, fresh water is in short supply, so keep showers short, avoid leaving taps running and reuse towels and linen. ln places with solar panels, be aware of your electricity use — turn of lights and all electrical appliances when not is use.
Never buy crafts or products made from protected or endangered animals, such as ivory, fur or feathers.
Do not buy bush meats such as hippo, bushbuck and buffalo. These are obtained only through illegal poaching, which poses one of the greatest threats to Uganda’s wildlife today.
Recycling facilities are limited in Uganda, but many lodges have bins to collect plastic bottles, and all glass bottles should be returned to the place you bought them to be recycled.
Respect the communities:
Respect the local people don’t take photos of them without asking, dress respectfully and learn how to say please and thank you in the local language (take a look at this basic Luganda language guide) – politeness is always appreciated.
Tip guides, porters, drivers and waiting staff as you would back home.
Haggling over a price is fine — as long as you are prepared to pay a fair amount. Think about the time and craftsmanship that has gone into what you want to buy, and remember the seller is trying to make a living.
Use local guides where possible, eat at local restaurants, shop at community craft shops and consider spending part of your trip in community run accommodation — it will be an exciting, authentic experience for you, and worthwhile for the local village.
Ask where the crafts came from before you buy – in some cases they are imported. And will not support local craftspeople.
Do not give sweets or money to children as this encourages begging. If you want to give gifts (such as pens or pencils) during a community tour. Give them to your guide to distribute afterwards.
Give something back:
Many communities offer short or long term volunteer placements — in a school, nursery, clinic, reforestation project, or even helping the community work on their tourism business. If you have some time to spare, why not take a look at the latest volunteer opportunities? You are sure to get as much out of it as the people you are there to help!
Become a wildlife researcher for a day! Get up close to the wildlife and enter parts of the parks not open to tourists when you join a group of researchers to track lions or monitor mongoose behavior. The activity fees will support the important research projects, and the data you collect will be used as part of the monitoring process.
What is Community Tourism?
Uganda is a country rich with a diversity of different cultures, people speaking different languages. These cultures have got something very unique for our clients especially those communities living around the national parks and conservation areas. Community Tourism includes tours, workshops, performances, dining, homestays and accommodation, all of which are provided by the local community.
Community tourism is one way in which we give back to the communities and help them improve their livelihoods through various projects that we put across with the help of other authorities such as the Uganda wildlife Authority and the community based tourism initiatives/ projects.
How does this Impact the local community?
When you visit the local communities with the purpose of experiencing the local cultures and ways of life, you create Jobs for the local people with a variety of skills, including drivers, cooks, guides, dancers, managers and service staff.
A percentage of the income is often put into a community fund, which may be spent on health, education or conservation initiatives such as building a classroom or orphanage, reforesting areas of land or HIV awareness campaigns.
This has got a great impact to the development of the local communities on education and health services.
How does this benefit conservation
In areas with few employment opportunities, tourism can provide an important source of income, and is an income-generating alternative to activities such as poaching, fishing. Logging or gathering firewood from protected forests. Receiving tourists also encourages communities to value their natural environment and preserve it for future visitors and residents.
How does this benefit tourists?
Visitors to community tourism projects experience a unique and authentic side of Ugandan life, as they eat traditional food, meet the villagers, pay with the kids and are guided by experts who have lived here their whole lives.
A community tour or homestay is sure to provide one of the most meaningful memories of your Ugandan holiday!