The desperate search for the source of the Nile river drove the British to colonise this majestic land. This has made Uganda one of Africa’s most powerful safari destinations boasting critically-endangered mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in some of the most stunning forests in Africa.
To this day, the Nile River provides the country with a crucial life-blood. This enriches the soil for agriculture and provides ample tourist opportunities including the world-class white-water rafting around Jinja. The abundance of water also feeds Uganda’s forests and notably the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, which is home to hundreds of bird species and the highest concentration of primates on Earth. This includes half of the world’s critically-endangered mountain gorillas. The Kibale forest is another marvel that plays home to a large population of habituated chimpanzees that can be seen on a walking safari.
In colonial times, Uganda was viewed as the very best place in Africa to safari. From the impenetrable forest to breath-taking and unusual birdlife and challenging trekking, it simultaneously it feeds fear, phobia, curiosity and sheer delight… all the makings of a mighty African childhood dream.
Other attractions in Uganda include Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park for classic big game viewing, chimpanzee trekking and river cruises. Kibale forms a massive wildlife corridor with Queen Elizabeth National Park that is used by migrating elephants in search of water. A mixture of tropical rainforest, swamp and grasslands help to support Africa’s biggest population of chimpanzees as well as at least a dozen other primate species. It is a top destination for those wanting to trek primates, including gorillas. With over 320 recorded bird species, it is also a haven for twitchers.
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The dense rain forest of Bwindi in southwestern Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population, including multiple groups that are habituated to humans. This is the most popular place to go gorilla trekking in Uganda (also available in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park). Buhoma, on the northern side of Bwindi is one of the most popular places to stay. There are a wide range of accommodation options and the small town is within easy distance of the park headquarters where you depart for the gorilla trekking. You can also walk right into Buhoma village to visit a local craft shop or school. Nkuringo, on the southern side of Bwindi, offers the most luxurious accommodation option (Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge) and different gorilla families to track. You can even hike through the forest between the two areas, if you’re looking for a truly active adventure and want to track gorillas in different locations.
We recommend staying for 2 or 3 nights in Bwindi and doing 2 gorilla treks. The success rate is high on your first trek, but the weather may not be ideal or you may want to put your camera down on your second trek and truly soak up your time with these gentle creatures. Gorilla permits need to be secured in advance (currently $700 per person per trek – subject to change) and can quickly sell out during peak months between June and September. When you arrive to park headquarters, you will be assigned a gorilla family and although you can express preferences based on your fitness abilities, re-assignments cannot be guaranteed. You will then head out in small groups with armed rangers and the help of a hired porter. Trekking can take anywhere from one hour to most of the day, but your time with the gorillas (one hour from the time you find them) is a once in a life-time experience and worth it for active, healthy travelers.