Uganda Safaris: Africa’s Planet of Apes

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Uganda safaris gorilla

Compared to other African safari countries, Uganda safaris is one of the most underrated safari destinations.

Being the meeting point of the savannah on the east and the rain forest on the west, Uganda offers a diversity of wildlife that few can come close to.

There are plenty of elephants and lions, but Uganda sets the bar even higher with one of the most extraordinary animals in the world – the mountain gorilla.

Despite the increasing popularity, there is still little information about gorillas in Uganda safaris and the various safari parks in Uganda. 

In this article about Uganda safaris, we will provide detailed but straightforward information about the geographical conditions of the country, the spectacular wildlife, and where to go to Uganda for safari.

Landscape in Uganda

Although Uganda is a landlocked country, it is surrounded by a large body of water. This East-Central African country borders many countries in East Africa, from Kenya and Tanzania to DRC and Sudan.

More importantly, it is in the African Great Lakes region, which consists of a series of lakes that are part of the East African Rift Valley.

The most significant of these lakes is Lake Victoria, the third-largest freshwater lake in the world. Furthermore, the great Nile river also runs across the country, making it even more water-rich. The other lakes in the country are Lake Kyoga, Lake Albert, Lake Edward, Lake Bunyonyi, and Lake George. Most of Uganda lies on a flat plateau 900 meters above sea level.

Vegetation in Uganda

The abundance of water has a dominant role in Uganda’s nature.

Lake Victoria especially has a big say in the annual rainfall of the country that exceeds 2000mm.

Although Uganda experiences a year-round hot and humid climate, the vegetation is surprisingly diverse thanks to the different altitudes and microclimates of the country.

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More than three-quarters of Uganda is covered by various forms of tropical savannah.

The wooded savannah is the most common type in the south, while the central northern regions of the country have a higher concentration of shrubland.

Every region has a considerable amount of grassland interrupted by Borassus palms and acacia. 

The north of Lake Victoria and Lake Albert has a high concentration of tropical rainforest.

A significant forest found in Uganda is the mahogany forest comprising hard ironwood trees in Rwenzori and Mount Elgon.

Last but not least, Uganda has many swamps in the humid areas full of hygrophilous vegetation, including the endemic papyrus.

Wildlife in Uganda Safaris

Uganda safaris have probably the most interesting variety of mammals, with over 350 species. It is on a par with Botswana and South Africa in terms of the big five but also comes with a considerable population of primates.

Primates

The highlight of touring in the various Uganda safaris would have to be the primates, especially mountain gorillas. Gorillas are the largest of all the primates, weighing over 200 kg. There are three species of Ugandan gorilla families depending on their habitat – lowland, western lowland, and mountain gorillas. The latter is the most endangered of all.

Another wonderful ape is the chimpanzee. Their intelligence has been the subject of many scientific studies ever since Jane Goodall set foot in Tanzania to investigate their behavior.

Besides these, Uganda is home to several monkey species, including vervet monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys, blue monkeys, De brazza’s monkeys, and baboons.

Carnivores

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uganda safaris hyena

Overall, Uganda has 38 carnivore species, including the members of the famed big five. Lions are the most commonly-found big cats. The Queen Elizabeth National Park has not only the highest concentration of these spectacular beasts but is also home to the rare tree-climbing lions.

Cheetah and leopard are more elusive than lions, and most-frequently spotted at Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo National Parks. The other carnivores found in Uganda safaris include nocturnal animals such as spotted hyena, caracal, bat-eared fox, jackal, serval, African civet, and African wild cat.

Herbivores

herbivore elephant

Herbivores, from antelopes to hippos and elephants are found in abundance throughout Uganda. Rhinos were absent from Uganda until 2005 when the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established to accommodate white rhinos. Sadly, the Black rhinoceros are still extinct.

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African elephants and buffaloes can be seen roaming in large herds, mostly around the water sources. Other herbivores accompanying them include giraffes, Burchell’s Zebra, eland, kudu, waterbuck, hartebeest, impala, nyala, warthog, duiker, and rare antelope species. The abundance of water resources means that you will find a tremendous amount of hippos.

Reptiles and Birds

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Nile crocodiles are common in Uganda, especially around Murchison Falls National Park, Kazinga Channel, and Lake Mburo. In the forested areas, you are likely to encounter snakes of all sizes and levels of venomosity, including python, cobra, and puff adder. The lakes and waterfalls are not only home to many of the species above, but also hundreds of birds. 

Best Uganda Safaris

Safari options in Uganda extend beyond the conventional safari game drives. Safari vehicles are not suitable for tracking large primates because these animals are extremely elusive and very wary of strangers. This means one has to track them on foot.

You might think you are not fit to do this, but thankfully, there are parks in the Uganda safaris that allow you to join special tours with experienced guides. Here is a list of parks in Uganda for safari tours, where you can get closer to a wide diversity of wild animals.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi is the best place for mountain gorilla tracking in Uganda. Lying on the western tip of the Rift Valley, the national park has the largest concentration of rainforest in Uganda. The ancient rainforest creates the perfect habitat for more than half of the world’s Silverback Mountain Gorillas, almost 400 of them to be more specific. 

The guided gorilla treks in Uganda are among the most sought-after activities in Africa. Strolling through the shadow of the giant rainforest, you feel like you are in a modern-day version of Tarzan. During your trek, you will also come across hundreds of different species, including other primates, elephants, buffaloes, and many other herbivores.

Kibale National Park

Another primate that intrigues many tourists coming to Uganda is the chimpanzee, also considered to be the closest relative of the human race. With a population of almost 1500, Kibale Forest National Park has the highest concentration of chimpanzees in the world. 

Just like Bwindi National Park, Kibale has considerable expertise in primate trekking tours, during which you may encounter not only chimps but other endangered primates such as red colobus monkey, and L’Hoest’s monkey. Besides the primates, there is a large population of buffalo, elephants, and even leopards. 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

gorilla national park

Mgahinga is part of a peace park project called Virunga on the border of Uganda and DRC. This national park brings an element of adrenaline to the regular primate trekking tours because of the nearby volcanoes, some of which are still active!

Although not as many as in Bwindi, there is a large population of Silverback mountain gorillas, as well as golden monkeys, which is another primate species indigenous to Central Africa.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

queen elizabeth national park

This is one of only two places in the world where you can find tree-climbing lions. There are also chimpanzee trekking tours and you may also encounter the big 5.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lying on a swamp area made up of 13 lakes, Lake Mburo is home to Precambrian metamorphic rocks and a great variety of game animals that reside among them.

Best Time to Visit Uganda Safaris

Technically. Uganda offers a year-round warm climate, and you will never feel too cold. However, the rainfall fluctuates between two dry and two wet seasons. The long dry season is between May and August, while there is a shorter spell of dry weather in January and February. March and April have the maximum rainfall, so we would not recommend visiting during that time.

Overall, the best time to visit the safaris in Uganda is during one of the dry seasons, where you will see the animals be drawn to the various water sources.

Summing Up Uganda Safaris

Once you step into Uganda’s mystical forests, you gain a new perspective of our origins, our relationship with the earth, and its other members. The wildlife in Uganda safaris sets the bar so high that no other safari trip in the future will match what you experience here.

What we write here does little justice to the precious creatures and friendly people of this magical African country. Go and see it with your own eyes!

For more wildlife sightseeing, check out our other posts on:

Uganda Safaris – FAQ

How much is a safari in Uganda?

The cost of travel to Uganda is the most challenging part. The exorbitant rates of primate trekking tours perhaps give you an idea of how precious and rare these creatures are. A regular primate trekking tour ranges from $400-500 US per person. The safari options in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth are slightly cheaper, starting from $200 US per person.

Are there lions in Uganda?

Indeed! The best parks to see lions are Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls Park, and Kidepo Valley.

Is Uganda good for safari?

Uganda has exceptional potential for safari tourism. An abundance of water sources and a wide and wide expanse of lush habitat makes Uganda a special place. Besides the significant numbers of the big five, Uganda is best known for the large populations of endangered apes that you won’t find anywhere else.

Do I need a visa to go to Uganda from the USA?

If you are a citizen of the EU, the UK, the USA, and many other countries outside Africa, you can apply for an e-Visa on the embassy’s website. The process is straightforward, quick, and only requires you to submit documents regarding your trip itinerary.

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