What to Visit in Africa – Uganda (Part I)

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You need one good reason to visit Uganda?

It is one of only three countries in the world where you can trek to see mountain gorillas in the wild (there are only 1,000 mountain gorillas left in the world), the experience in Uganda is truly amazing.

Dominant male mountain gorilla in rainforest. Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. An excellent illustration.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda is home to the Nyakagezi gorilla family with its two silverbacks (adult males). It holds a certain allure, since it boasts one of the highest concentrations of silverbacks within a family. Tours are small, no more than eight people, and once the gorillas are spotted, you have 60 minutes with them—and believe me, it goes really fast.

Witnessing the adult silverback males in action was the most moving experience. Pounding their chests, making conversation with guttural sounds, climbing effortlessly up the bamboo trees to build a nest—they seem so human-like, which isn’t surprising given that these mammals share 98 percent of our DNA. Seeing the gorillas in their natural habitat was one of my favorite experiences in Africa.

When to go: Since it’s a rain forest, there’s a chance you’ll get wet anytime, so there’s no really bad time to go. Just be sure to pack appropriately.

What to Visit in Uganda

 

1. Kampala

The ancestral capital of the Buganda kingdom is modern day Uganda’s capital too.

And for an African first city, it’s got real charm and panache.

You can still see some of the thatched relics of the former glory years at the Kasubi Tombs, or you can taste the frenetic energy of day-to-day Ugandan life between the sun-cracked streets of Central Kampala; a place of throbbing markets (the city’s Owino market is said to be the largest in Central-east Africa) and echoing mosque minarets (that soaring Gaddafi National Mosque is a must!). On the edge of town is the more straight-laced area of Nakasero Hill, where well-to-do villas house the country’s elite and expats chatter in the ramshackle bars.

2. Kibale National Park

Pierce into the dense jungles and wetland forests of the great Kibale National Park and you won’t be disappointed! What awaits is one of the world’s most awesome arrays of wild chimpanzee packs, and you can see these majestic simians of Central Africa trawling through the undergrowth and commanding the canopies on game drives and safari excursions of all different types.

There’s a kaleidoscope of other curious little monkeys to spot too, like the rare L’Hoest’s and the Ugandan red colobus.

It’s also possible to wonder up at ancient fig trees, and see some more recent efforts to create sustainable coffee plantations in the area.

3. Ssese Islands

A cocktail of golden sands worthy of Latin America, sun-kissed beaches and lapping waves, the archipelago of the Ssese Islands is Uganda’s answer to the tropical gems of the East African coast on the Indian Ocean.

Peppering the waters of Lake Victoria, they are considered the country’s premier rest and relaxation spot, with the popular Buggala Island and Bulago coming up top of the menu.

You can either kick-back in one of the lakeside resorts, or wax up the walking boots and make for the hills, where hippo-dotted swamps hide between the ridges.

Kayaks and other watersports are also available on Buggala.

4. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park really does live up to its name! A land of rocky peaks and endless green, it’s covered in some of Africa’s oldest primeval forestry.

The biodiversity – think geckos next to gorillas next to a multitude of curious insects – garnered the spot a UNESCO World Heritage tag, while most safari goers head this way in search of colobus monkeys and chimpanzees.

The breathtaking landscapes are typical of the Albertine Rift.

They rise and fall to untrodden valleys and summits, with quartzite massifs here and teak-shrouded riverways there.

It’s definitely one to write home about!

5.Murchison Falls National Park

Named for the roaring cataracts that carve right through their middle, the wilds of the Murchison Falls National Park are unquestionably some of the most amazing in north-western Uganda.

The protected area is actually the largest national park in the country, with a whopping count of nearly 4,000 square kilometers between its borders.

The biggest attraction is – of course – the point where the Victoria Nile crashes through a tight-knit gorge and over an escarpment of more than 40 meters in height.

However, travelers can also look forward to stalking lions and giraffes and elephants and more!