Uganda’s diversity of landscapes and wildlife is incredible. Ecologically, this smallish African country is where the eastern savannah meets the western rainforest, while a varied mosaic of wetlands covers 25% of its surface area. In Uganda, you might one day track chimpanzees or gorillas through lush tropical jungles and the next day go boating on a hippo-filled river or drive through the open grassland in search of the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino). This, in short, is a unique and magical destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Below we introduce you to 10 of its most compelling attractions.

1,432 Uganda Safaris

 

1. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Gorillas are the main attraction of this popular national park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is home to more than 40% of the world’s remaining 1,060 mountain gorillas. More than 25 family groups here can each be tracked by up to eight visitors daily. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi often entails a steep and relatively demanding hike through dense undergrowth. On other days it might involve a short, flat 20-minute stroll. Either way, coming face-to-face with these gentle giants, who share 98% of their genes with humans, is an unforgettable, and for some life-changing, experience.

971 Bwindi Tours

 

2. Queen Elizabeth National Park

Male lion sitting in a tree in Queen Elizabeth National Park Male lion sitting in a tree in Queen Elizabeth National Park

It is difficult to know where to start when it comes to singing the praises of this biodiverse national park. Perhaps the obvious place is the Kazinga Channel, where herds of thirsty buffalo and elephant gather alongside resident pods of hippo below the snowcapped Rwenzori Mountains. Boat trips on this scenic equatorial waterway are a highlight of visits to Queen Elizabeth National Park. So, too, are game drives on the nearby Kasenyi Plains, where large herds of Uganda kob (a type of antelope) attract plenty of well-fed predators.

Elsewhere, Queen Elizabeth NP’s attractions include the jungle-lined crater lakes of Maramagambo Forest, tree-climbing lions on the Ishasha Plains, and daily chimp trekking excursions in the bordering Kyambura Gorge and Kalinzu Forest. And the birdlife is sensational. Indeed, the park’s checklist of 610 species exceeds that of any other East African conservation area.

694 Queen Elizabeth NP Safaris

 

3. Kibale National Park

Chimpanzee sitting in a tree in Kibale National Park Chimpanzee sitting in a tree in Kibale National Park

It’s showing off really, isn’t it? Not only does Uganda offer all-but-guaranteed gorilla tracking and a fair chance of spotting the Big Five, it is also the most straightforward place in Africa to track chimpanzees, humankind’s closest genetic relatives. Kibale National Park is the best place to do this if you want to be reasonably sure of a sighting, though other sites such as Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Budongo Forest and Kyambura Gorge are cheaper and not as busy.

Kibale has a lot more to offer than chimps. Over the course of a visit, you might easily see half a dozen monkey species including Uganda mangabey, which is unique to the country. A great variety of colorful forest birds includes great blue turaco, double-toothed barbet and red-headed bluebell.

558 Kibale Tours

 

4. Murchison Falls National Park

Hippo with young in Murchison Falls National Park Hippo with young in Murchison Falls National Park

The explorer Sir Samuel Baker called Murchison Falls, the explosive centerpiece of Uganda’s largest national park, “the most important object on the entire course of the White Nile”. Thrilling boat trips to the base of this spectacular waterfall confirm this assessment, while also providing great wildlife viewing. You should see plenty of hippos, crocs and waterbirds from the boat, along with elephant, buffalo and various antelope. Elsewhere, lion and Rothschild’s giraffe are regulars on game drives north of the Nile River, while boat trips to the delta where the river enters Lake Albert routinely offer excellent shoebill sightings.

488 Murchison Falls Safaris

 

5. Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch

White rhinos at Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch White rhinos at Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch

Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch is the only place in Uganda where rhinos can be seen today. Even better, it is one of the few places anywhere that offers visitors the opportunity to track these prehistoric-looking giants on foot, with sightings being almost guaranteed. Tragically, rhinos were actually quite common in Murchison Falls National Park in the 1960s, only to be poached out in the turbulent post-independence era.

The white rhinos at Ziwa have been bred up from six individuals that were translocated to Uganda (mostly from Kenya) in the early 2000s. Plans are in place to move some of these rhinos from Ziwa to other parks in Uganda. Until this happens, however, Ziwa will remain one of the best places to visit in Uganda for people who want to see all the Big Five.

123 Ziwa Safaris

 

6. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Silverback gorilla in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Silverback gorilla in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is sometimes dismissed as the second-best place in Uganda to visit mountain gorillas. This is a grossly unfair assessment. True, there’s only one gorilla group that can be visited in Mgahinga, so permit numbers are very limited. But this is also one of the most enjoyable groups to visit, since it contains three hefty silverbacks and tends to inhabit more open bamboo forest than its counterparts in Bwindi.

Mgahinga has several other assets. It is the only place in Uganda to track the beautiful bamboo-guzzling golden monkey. And the location on the forested slopes of the Virunga volcanoes, three of which can be climbed on challenging day hikes, is absolutely sensational.

94 Mgahinga Tours

 

7. Kidepo Valley National Park

Herd of buffalo in Kidepo Valley National Park Herd of buffalo in Kidepo Valley National Park

Uganda’s most remote national park lies in the far northeast and shares a mountainous border with South Sudan. As a result of this far-flung location, it sees relatively few visitors by comparison to Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls NPs. But this is no reflection on the quality of wildlife viewing.

In Kidepo Valley National Park, animals you’re likely to see include thousand-strong herds of buffalo, and large numbers of elephant and Rothschild’s giraffe, along with plains zebra, patas monkey and a variety of antelope. Kidepo is the only place in Uganda where lion, leopard and cheetah might all be encountered. A long bird checklist includes East Africa’s only wild population of the striking rose-ringed parakeet.

114 Kidepo Safaris

 

8. Jinja and the Upper Nile

White-water rafting in Jinja White-water rafting in Jinja

Wildlife viewing dominates most tour itineraries to Uganda, and understandably so. But for those who enjoy a bit of urban travel or adventure activities, it is worth heading to Jinja. Situated on Lake Victoria, this attractive town overlooks the scenic outlet where the Nile River, the world’s longest, starts its long journey north to the Mediterranean Sea via the Sahara Desert.

Jinja is studded with architectural relics from the days when it was Uganda’s second-largest city, along with a fun selection of modern cafés, restaurants and nightclubs. For adrenaline junkies, the Nile River immediately upriver of Jinja offers thrilling white-water rafting on Grade 5 rapids, as well as kayaking, bungee jumping and quad biking.

85 Jinja Tours

 

9. Lakes Bunyonyi and Mutanda

Lake Bunyonyi Lake Bunyonyi

Situated in the same southwestern highlands that harbor Uganda’s gorillas, Lakes Bunyonyi and Mutanda have much in common. Both comprise submerged river valleys dammed naturally by lava flows from the volcanic Virunga Mountains. Scenically, both are enclosed by steep terraced slopes and studded with wooded islands. And they are both regarded as safe for swimming, thanks to the absence of bilharzia (a snail-borne disease common at lower altitudes), crocodiles and hippos.

Where the two lakes most obviously differ is in their level of tourist development. Lake Bunyonyi is a well-known post-safari chill-out venue, and it offers a large choice of resorts to suit all budgets and tastes. Lake Mutanda, by contrast, has a rather remote feel and is serviced by a handful of small mid-range to upmarket lodges. Still can’t decide? Well, on a clear day, the sundowner view across Lake Mutanda to the Virungas is one of the most beautiful anywhere in Africa.

325 Lake Bunyonyi Tours15 Lake Mutanda Tours

10. Mabamba Swamp

Shoebill in Mabamba Swamp Shoebill in Mabamba Swamp

Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport has a memorable location on the northern shore of Lake Victoria (Africa’s largest lake). Better still for new arrivals, Entebbe is only a short drive or boat ride from Mabamba Swamp, a bird-watcher’s paradise run as a community ecotourism project.

Mabamba heads the list of best places to visit in Uganda (actually, make that anywhere in Africa) to see the shoebill. This is a bizarre slate-gray bird that feeds on lungfish and claps together its massive clog-shaped bill like castanets when agitated. Other iconic birds likely to be seen on wobbly canoe trips into Mabamba Swamp range from African fish eagle and palm-nut vulture to the tall goliath heron and lily-trotting African jacana.

Mabamba Safaris

 

Want To Visit Uganda?

Click on the button below to compare Uganda safaris offered by top-rated tour operators.

1,432 Uganda Safaris

By Philip Briggs
South Africa ZA

Philip is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Bradt guidebook to Uganda.

More About This Author

About SafariBookings

SafariBookings is the largest online marketplace for African safari tours. Easily compare offers from top-rated tour operators. Make decisions like a pro by using our 105,009 reviews and 222 destination guides.
More About Us

Best Time To Visit Uganda

Excellent
Good
Fair
Poor
Best Time by Month

Photo Gallery Uganda

View Photos (50)

Map of Uganda

View Map

Blog Categories