Our Africa expert Katie is just back from Uganda and whittles down her top five experiences, from an Attenborough-style encounter with mountain gorillas to a sunset cruise on Lake Victoria.
Uganda is home to around 400 endangered mountain gorillas, almost 5,000 chimpanzees, numerous big game, and endless mind-blowingly beautiful landscapes. Having seen and experienced it all first hand, categorising the best moments down to five has been a challenge, but these experiences are guaranteed to inspire you to seek out your own adventure to this diverse and beautiful country.
5. Sunset Cruise on Lake Victoria
Fresh off the plane I was welcomed into Entebbe with a sunset cruise on the second largest lake in the world, Lake Victoria. To get there we passed various local neighbourhoods which provided a real snapshot of life in Uganda, as locals looked up from their day to day activities, smiling and waving. Once on the lake, with a gin and tonic in hand, I took in the bright orange sunset and listened to locals singing in the distance. The realisation of where I was finally sank in, and I knew it would be a very special and fulfilling trip ahead.
4. Hiking up Murchison Falls
Our hike to Murchison Falls began with a scenic boat ride along the River Nile. From the offset I was excited about reaching the point where the distant thundering crash of the water was coming from, and before long I was rewarded with exceptional views over the ‘Devil’s Cauldron’ where the powerful waterfall bursts out from its narrow gorge into the river. After walking for approximately 45 minutes, we reached the top of Murchison Falls, where the Nile forces its way through the rocks and tumbles 43m downwards, before flowing west towards Lake Albert. The views were breathtaking and the volume and strength of the water as it plummeted over the side was overwhelming. Murchison Falls quickly became a new highlight.
3. Fort Portal scenery and chimp encounter in Kibale National Park
When you hear the word ‘Uganda’ do rolling green hills, rows of banana and tea plantations and deep blue crater lakes spring to mind? Perhaps not, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in postcard-perfect Fort Portal and the surrounding Kibale National Park, where I enjoyed a close-up encounter with chimpanzees. We found the chimps after a 25-minute search through dense forest with our guide and sat just a few metres away from them as they groomed each other and played around on the forest floor – amazing.
2. Tree-climbing lions in Ishasha, Queen Elizabeth National Park
Being from South Africa and having done my fair share of game drives, I am fortunate enough to have seen lions many times before. However, the chance of seeing tree-climbing lions was a whole different experience, and one I was very excited about as there are only a few places in Africa where lions do this.
I was anxious that the sighting may not happen at all, as it’s fairly rare even in Uganda, but on one of our game drives in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, we stumbled across a pride of lions lazing in the shady trees to escape the midday heat. It was mesmerising sitting below an acacia tree and looking up to see these big cats resting in what looked to be very awkward positions across branches you might suspect wouldn’t be strong enough to hold them - but the lions were clearly very comfortable and every now and then opened one eye to glance down at us. If I could, I would definitely have spent hours watching them until the sun set and they came down to hunt at night.
1. Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
A mountain gorilla trek is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I think should hold a place on every person’s bucket list, in fact it’s difficult to put the emotions that follow a gorilla encounter into words. After a tough six-hour trek through farmlands and up and down mountains in the thick Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, we came face to face with these awe-inspiring creatures, making the journey well worth the effort. There are gorilla families scattered throughout the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and you will be assigned a family located at a distance suited to your trekking abilities. Our group was assigned to find a gorilla family of five, which had the biggest silverback and youngest baby (just a month old) in the region - this made watching them interact in front of us even more special for me.
When we reached the gorillas, they were incredibly peaceful and accepting of us being in their space, just getting on with their business as we watched. You have an hour with them, and it flies by, so my advice is to take your photos and then sit back and enjoy it! It’s a truly emotional experience being so close to these amazing creatures, and rightly takes my number one spot.
We can tailor-make your perfect holiday to Uganda. Take a look at our itinerary suggestions, call Katie on +44 207 563 1315 or make an enquiry online.